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Younger Artesia Punishers squad wins battle against 16-Under team


By Loren Kopff

LA HABRA-Last summer in the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championships, a pair of Artesia Punishers 14-Under travel softball teams squared off against each other in an elimination game. It was Danny Guerrero’s team that knocked off the one managed by Anthony Medina.

Guerrero was faced in a similar situation in the Surf City Summer Kickoff tournament this past Sunday. But this time, his 14-Under team was pitted against the Artesia Punishers 16-Under team, managed by Armando Canizales and Guerrero’s team came out on top 6-0 at La Bonita Park on a two-hitter thrown by Kendall Henscheid (Huntington Beach High School).

Despite two teams from different age groups from the same program facing each other, Canizales and Guerrero admitted they wished their teams had not gone up against each other in the tournament.

“We can do this any other time at our home field and stuff like that,” Guerrero said. “I’d rather have us both have a chance of advancing. So, I really don’t care for that.

“It’s always tough because you never know where you’re going to land in the brackets,” he continued. “If one of us would have done a little better in pool play we probably would have ended in a different spot.”

“No, I’m not in favor of that because it costs us a lot of animosity between parents and stuff like that regardless of how it goes,” Canizales said. “That’s the way sometimes these tournaments work and that’s the way it falls. But if I had a choice to do it, I wouldn’t do it.”

Guerrero’s team set the tone in the bottom of the first inning when shortstop Karina Ibarra (Lakewood High School) singled and went to second on a wild pitch. Center fielder Erica Guerrero (Kennedy High School) then sent a two-run home run over the center field fence. Following an out third, baseman Rebecca Chung (West Torrance High School) took the fourth pitch she saw from Ashley Armas (John Glenn High School) and sent that to the same place as Guerrero’s long shot. That ended the day for Armas and was more than enough for her Henscheid.

“I felt that she threw really good,” Canizales said of Armas. “I think I should have rested her more because she pitched the whole game last night.”

While the three runs were all that the younger Punishers team needed, Henscheid was showing why she is one of the top pitchers in the organization. She allowed only four runners and had only one reach third base. Armas doubled to the right field gap with one out in the top of the second and third baseman Alexis Lopez (Los Osos High School) singled with one out in the fourth. Henscheid struck out six and walked one batter.

“It’s always tough when you come out of high school because you have a different level of play in high school,” Danny Guerrero said. “When you play travel ball, every batter is a solid player, especially when you’re playing top teams. So, it takes a little bit of time for everybody to get back into the swing of things.”

“My offense had been great through this tournament,” Canizales said. “I knew [Henscheid] was tough. I’ve seen her. I’ve been on [the other] side of the dugout where I had to be on her side and coach her or help Danny Guerrero coach her.”

Danny Guerrero’s team added to its lead in the fourth when Chung reached on an infield single and pinch runner Anyssa Ortega (La Mirada High School) moved to third on a double from Jazzmynn Loe (Los Alamitos High School). A sacrifice fly from second baseman Danielle Lew (Los Alamitos High School) brought in Ortega. On the next pitch, Henscheid singled to plate Loe. The final run came in the sixth when Ortega, who became a pinch runner following Erica Guerrero’s single to right field, scored on a base hit from Loe. Erica Guerrero went three for three in the game and 10 for 15 with nine runs batted in during six games in the tournament.

Following the game, the Punishers knocked off the (Temecula) So Cal A’s 2-1 behind a two-run home run from Berlyn Carreon (Los Alamitos High School) and six solid innings in the circle from Erica Guerrero.

But in the semifinals, the team fell to the Corona Angels 16-Under team 8-5. Henscheid went seven for 15 and drove in five runs in the tournament while Loe was five for 12 and drew five walks.

“We have a very athletic team, defensively and offensively, and every girl in our lineup can hit the ball,” Danny Guerrero said. “That’s why we batted 11 today because they all do something good for the team. When we get into big tournaments, we have to have everybody hitting.”

Danny Guerrero’s team begins action in the PGF So Cal qualifier against the (Camarillo) So Cal Diamonds today at Winchester Field. In the 16-Under division, the Punishers, who were scheduled to be in the Stockton qualifier but backed out when their pitchers had finals, will open up against the Cal A’s-White team today at La Mirada Regional Park.