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ASA/USA U14 NATIONALS: Pair of Artesia Punishers 14-Under teams ready for bracket play


By Loren Kopff

SANTEE-Fresh off of the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championships, the Artesia Punishers 14-Under travel ball teams managed by Danny Guerrero and Anthony Medina made their way to America’s Finest City for another tournament. This time, both teams are competing in the Amateur Softball Association/United States of America 14-Under “A” National Championship.

Pool play action was held this past Tuesday and Wednesday at the Santee Sportsplex and Guerrero’s squad continued its torrid hitting. Against the (Salem) Oregon Titans, the Punishers erupted for 13 first inning runs but had to hold on for a 14-11 victory. The win comes a few days after the Punishers finished in sixth place in the PGF National Championships and clinched an automatic berth to next summer’s tournament.

“They played a lot of games with a lot of heat, so we rested them,” Guerrero said. “We didn’t really practice. We rested them all and they came right back where they left off. We put up a lot of runs in this game, they hit the ball well and I think their bats are still hot. We’re looking good.”

The Punishers nearly batted around twice in the top of the first inning. All nine starters had at least one hit in the frame with second baseman Pacy Villa (Frank Augustus Miller Middle School) going two for two and driving in three runs. Third baseman Roxanne Habash (Kennedy High School) and right fielder Merissa Millette (Kennedy High School) each collected two hits and drove in a pair of runs in the inning and left fielder Anyssa Ortega (La Mirada High School) added a bases-clearing triple.

“I was surprised because I think the [Oregon] Titans team came in fourth place in Triple Crown,” Guerrero said. “So I was a little shocked that we were able to go out there…and all of that came with two outs. This team is capable of doing that, though.”

Kendall Henscheid (Huntington Beach High School) pitched the first two innings, allowing just one hit and tossed 30 pitches. But two other pitchers didn’t have the same success as the Titans scored twice in the bottom of the third, once in the fourth and four runs each in the fifth and sixth innings.

“We tried to get all of the girls in the game and we had different girls in different positions,” Guerrero said. “It’s tough to get a big lead like that and stay really focused in the game.”

This past Wednesday, the Punishers slammed the Crown Point (Indiana) 99 group 10-1 behind an 11-hit attack. Henscheid pitched three innings, yielding just a first inning run, four hits and struck out two. Villa went two for two with two runs batted in while Erica Guerrero (Kennedy High School) also had two hits and drove in a run. Rebecca Chung (West Torrance High School) cracked a two-run home run and Danielle Lew (Los Alamitos High School) added a solo shot.

The Punishers began the double elimination portion of the tournament against the (Beaverton, OR) NW Batbusters on July 31.

Anthony Medina’s team began pool play action this past Tuesday afternoon against the (Sarasota, FL) Team Mizuno and through the first five innings, both teams were locked into a pitcher’s duel. But Team Mizuno scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and escaped with a 5-1 win.

The lone run for the Punishers came in the top of the fourth inning when pitcher Alyssa Olague (Whittier High School) singled and came home two outs later when pinch hitter Angie Porcayo (Bellflower High School) singled over the outstretched arms of Team Mizuno’s shortstop.

Despite allowing six hits through the first five innings, Olague worked out of one jam after another. She struck out Zaire Yancy with a runner at third to end the third inning. She got Haley Murphy to pop up to second baseman Evelyn Hernandez (Cerritos High School) to end the fourth with runners at the corners. Then she induced Hannah Roberson to pop up to her with the bases loaded to put an end to the fifth inning.

“I can’t say enough about Alyssa Olague,” Medina said. “The kid is lights out. She’s been like that all season long. She comes in and does her job. Watching her pitch is speechless. You can’t teach that. The kid is talented.”

After Team Mizuno tied the game in its half of the inning, the Punishers had a chance to regain the lead in the next frame. Third baseman Destinee Alvarez (Lynwood High School) led off with an infield knock, moved to second on an error and went to third on a one-out groundout. But Alvarez popped up to the shortstop to end the threat.

The Punishers were limited to five hits while Olague struck out four. But the next day, the Punishers bounced back in a huge way and slammed the (Naperville, IL) KC Xplosion 10-1. Alvarez and Jenah Tittle (Orange Lutheran High School) each went three for three with the latter picking up a pair of triples and Alyssa Medina (Cerritos High School) went two for three. Olague was solid with 11 strikeouts.

The Punishers squared off against the (San Ramon) Northern California Valley Stompers on July 31.