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Artesia’s offense gets going late but time runs out against San Pedro


By Loren Kopff

The good news for Artesia’s softball team is that the first inning is its most productive, scoring 45 runs through the first 18 games. The bad news is the first inning is also the Pioneer’s worst, having allowed 60 runs before getting to the second inning.
Last Friday, against San Pedro in pool play action of the Artesia Tournament, the Pirates touched up senior pitcher Dominique Moran for half a dozen runs in the first inning. Despite a furious rally in the bottom of the fifth, the Pioneers left the tying run at the plate as time expired and the hosts fell to the California Interscholastic Federation-Los Angeles City Section powerhouse squad 7-5. Through the first two pool play games of the tournament, Artesia had given up nine runs in the first inning. However, once the Pioneers get to the fourth inning and beyond, they are outscoring foes 38-18 this season.
“The team just isn’t ready to go,” said Artesia head coach Jeff Hovis. “They need to get better prepared for the game. It’s like they want to get behind and battle.”
Moran faced nine batters in the top of the first, yielding four hits and walking two before the Pioneers recorded an out. The big blow was a bases loaded single from Taylor Richter which brought in two runs. But Moran settled down over the next five innings, giving up four hits and striking out a pair of batters.
“She’s coming off an injury; she’s coming off a back problem,” Hovis said. “She didn’t throw enough pitches in the beginning [of the season] and she wasn’t prepared. She felt she was and then when she started throwing, she was missing.”
San Pedro’s Jaclyn Rivera dodged a potential scoring threat in the second when she walked senior designated player Kira Ito and gave up consecutive singles to freshman first baseman Ali Vega and Moran to load the bases. But she got freshman second baseman Brandy Palate to ground into an inning-ending double play.
The Pioneers finally got on the board in the fifth inning and sent 10 batters to the plate. With one out, Palate singled and Rivera walked senior pinch hitter Marissa Chavez before senior center fielder Dominique Gonzales singled in Palate. Two batters later, senior shortstop Bianca Espinoza, playing in her second game since becoming eligible after transferring from Cerritos, reached on an error which allowed Chavez to touch home plate. Then with two outs, Ito’s base hit to the right field gap brought in Gonzales and senior right fielder Marlena Murguia.
After Moran needed 13 pitches to get through the top of the sixth, the Pioneers had just a few minutes to at least tie the game before it would end due to the drop dead time limit of 90 minutes. With one out, Chavez singled but was out on a fielder’s choice from Gonzales before time ran out.
The loss sent the Pioneers to 8-10 on the season, the first time they had been more than a game under .500 all season. The day before, Artesia lost to Pioneer 9-1 to fall under .500 since the first game of the season. Still, with as many wins already as all of last season, Artesia is a much better squad than in 2012. Entering the San Pedro game, five players were batting at least .324 and the team was batting 50 points higher than last season.
“We have more disciplined batters,” Hovis said. “They know what it is to swing the bat. That gives us a lot of confidence at the plate. It’s a different team from last year. As soon as they find themselves, I think they’ll be fine. We have a big road to climb starting next week. They’re really starting to believe in themselves.”
Of those five players, three are underclassmen and figure to be a bigger part of Artesia’s offense next season. Sophomore third baseman and pitcher Sarah Guerrero was leading the team with a .404 average followed by Vega (.385) and junior Sabrina Manzano (.350).
“Those names are going to be a force to reckon with down the road,” Hovis said. “Those girls are some of the success that we’re having right now. Those are going to be household names in the future.”
Despite the current five-game losing streak, which also includes a sweep by Mayfair in which the Pioneers allowed a total of nine first inning runs, the team is boasting the best two-year victory total in at least 16 seasons. Artesia wraps up its tournament on Saturday, then gets back into Suburban League action next week with a home and home series against Cerritos, followed by a pair of games against La Mirada. Artesia is still seeking its first playoff berth since 1992.
“As far as they want to go, they can go,” Hovis said of making the playoffs. “It’s up to them. Those girls, if they want it, I feel have the capability of going out there and beating anybody in the league. I feel [the league] is wide open.”