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press rowArtesia Punishers 18-Gold team invited to Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championships

By Loren Kopff

In an unexpected move, but one that will greatly be appreciated, Bob Medina is heading back to a National Championship tournament. He will be taking his Artesia Punishers 18-Gold travel softball team to the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championships, to be played from July 28-Aug. 3 in Huntington Beach.

In just the 4th year the PGF has been around, this is the first time Medina will be taking a team to the PGF National Championships. The last time a Medina-coached Punishers team played for a national championship was 2010 when they were in the USA/Amateur Softball Association 18-Under ‘A’ National Championships in Hemet. Medina won a national title in 2007 when his team competed in the USA/ASA 18-Under ‘A’ National Championships in College Station, TX.

“We got a special invitation to PGF and it’s one of the tournaments right here in Huntington Beach,” Medina said. “Since they started, we’ve been trying to go there and there only. We don’t go out of state to qualify, so we have one or two shots to do it. They want the best teams over there, so they gave us an opportunity.”

Since the PGF formed, Medina has taken his teams to many PGF qualifiers in hopes of staying home and playing for another national title instead of going out of state. But each time, including twice in June, he has been unsuccessful. The Punishers went 4-2 in the PGF Southern California qualifier June 14-16, then went 1-2 in the Las Vegas qualifier two weeks later in the final chance that teams can qualify for this season. Medina also took a team to the 2008 USA/ASA 18-Under ‘A’ National Championships in Moline, IL. Since last Thursday, his team has played in 10 games in preparation of the PGF National Championships.

“The 2007 National Championship was great,” Medina said. “It was overwhelming and to this day we know every play that probably went on. It still goes on in our mind. But, we took it upon ourselves to focus more on scholarships and we’ve been doing that. Almost every single kid in the 18-Under group is getting a scholarship for the Punishers.

“I think, after so many years, we’re getting the hunger again,” he added. “We are really getting the hunger. We want to start pursuing it next year. I think we’ll go 100 percent after it no matter where we have to go.”

In other Artesia Punishers news, the 12-Under team coached by Danny Guerrero made a strong run in the loser’s bracket of the Triple Crown World Series in San Diego, winning five straight games. But that run came to an end last Saturday with a 3-1 loss to the (Hacienda Heights) Firecrackers. Still, the Punishers finished in fifth place out of 45 teams in the gold bracket and were three wins away from playing for a championship. After going undefeated in pool play action, the Punishers opened the bracket portion with a 3-2 loss to the (Camarillo) Combat Panthers on July 11. Then, the team posted consecutive victories over the Temecula-based The Next Level (7-4), (Mission Viejo) OC Elite (7-5), (Bellflower) No Doubt (6-0), (Wilmington) USA Athletics (3-2) and (Trabuco Canyon) California Cruisers (7-2).The 12-Under Punishers will participate in the PGF National Championships beginning on July 28.

The 18-Under team coached by Higinio Valdez spent last week in the Champions Cup in Irvine, a college showcase tournament. After getting shutout in the first three games of pool play action, his team rebounded to post three straight shutouts to finish in fourth place in its pool. Last Saturday afternoon, in the single elimination playoff bracket, the Punishers blanked the Central California Krush 7-0, then edged the California Breeze 5-4 and ended the evening getting past Team Florida 8-7. This past Sunday, the Punishers were eliminated by the Power Surge 3-1.

Next up for the team is an appearance in the USA/ASA ‘A” Western Nationals in Bakersfield, beginning on July 30.

Finally, the 14-Under team coached by Mondo Canizales will begin pool play action in the Triple Crown World Series in Reno on Monday against the Washington Angels and the MV Shockwave. On Tuesday, his team will play the California Quakes and California Crossfire.