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TRIPLE CROWN SPORTS ZOOM INTO JUNE TOURNAMENT: Artesia Punishers Gold team stumbles on last day of showcase tournament


By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

WINCHESTER-The annual Triple Crown Sports Zoom Into June Tournament is a time for hundreds of travel softball players to showcase their talents to college coaches. While there is no championship to be won or lost here, teams still want to put their best foot forward as they prepare for this weekend’s Premier Girls Fastpitch Southern California Qualifier.

The Artesia Punishers 18 Gold team, managed by Bob Medina, got off to a slow start last Friday before rebounding for a pair of offensive attacks last Saturday. But this past Sunday at Winchester Park, the Punishers turned the other way and had four hits each in a pair of shutout losses.

“I thought we played well until the last ones right here,” Medina said. “These two right here were unacceptable. We have the majority of the team signed; we’ve had a ton of scholarships since August of last year. So these kids should win, and that’s what I was telling them [after the game]. They should have won.”

The Punishers had a late afternoon game against the (Villa Park) Firecrackers and were blanked 2-0. After going down in order in the top of the first inning, Alexis Lopez (Los Osos High) and Brianna Garrett (Quartz Hill High/Siena College) led off the second with singles. But two pop-ups and a fly out to left field ended that threat.

In the fourth with two outs, Mia Wyatt (West Torrance High/Azusa Pacific University) was at third when Shayna Dahlen (Villa Park High/Idaho State University) was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single into a double. And in the sixth with two outs, Logan Miller (Lakewood High/Whitworth University), who had singled, was left at second when Alexxis Ponce (Santa Fe High/Portland State University) sharply hit a line drive that was snared by the Firecrackers pitcher.

Immediately after the game, the Punishers were whitewashed by the (Agoura Hills) Jets 4-0. Again, the team did have opportunities to score but had a pair of runners left standing at third base. In the top of the first, Wyatt reached on a fielder’s choice and went to second on a Dahlen base hit. Both runners moved to third and second respectively on a groundout from Lopez before Garrett struck out. In the fifth, Jessica Delgado (El Rancho High) singled, moved to second on a sacrifice from Leah Gonzales (Banning High/University of Hawai’i, Hilo) and to third on a deep fly ball out from Yamila Evans (St. Monica Academy).

The Punishers kicked off the tournament by falling to the (Phoenix) Arizona Storm 5-0 before posting an 11-0 victory over the (Alamo) Bears and a 7-5 win over the (Aliso Viejo) California Cruisers.

“We scored 18 runs yesterday and today we come out and don’t score,” Medina said. “I don’t know if it’s a combination of them getting up and driving all the way in traffic [here]…there’s no excuse at all, whatsoever. They should have won and they should have came out and pounded the ball. It seemed everybody just didn’t make adjustments.”

The Punishers, who also have an 18-Under Red team built mostly of younger players, still have not been completely together since last month. Most of that can be attributed to players still with their high school teams who went deep in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoffs. Four of those players were on the North Torrance High team that won a championship on June 4. Still, Medina doesn’t want to use that as an excuse as to why the team hasn’t performed much better up to now.

“That’s probably a big ‘if’,” Medina said. “But that’s what I’m saying. The kids that I put on the team that we’ve combined with [the Gold] team…they’re the younger team. That’s why I’m putting the pressure [on them] and just amongst this group right here, they should be able to compete. It will be exciting to have them back next week playing at that level and the competitiveness will be there.

“We have this senior class on the team and we haven’t had them since the high school break,” Medina later added. “But once they all get together, the maturity is going to be there and you’re going to see this. The depth that we have with this team is going to be very rewarding for us and easier for us to compete because nobody is really dominant. We just are making bad choices.”

The one bright spot of the weekend, which again is the main reason why teams participate in the Zoom Into June Tournament, is the fact that Delgado and Jackie Vargas (Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High) both received full ride scholarships to Arizona Western College.

Now, the serious part of the summer takes place this weekend out at the Diamond Valley Complex in Hemet as the Punishers hope to pick up one of four Premier Division automatic berths or one of four Platinum Division automatic berths to the PGF National Championship at the end of next month. Medina’s squad went two and out at the end of last month’s Phoenix Qualifier and were outscored 20-4 in those two games. The Punishers will face the (Orange) Southern California Athletics, managed by Peter Vecvanags, this morning and with a win, will face the Orange County Batbusters, managed by Clay Lara, later tonight.

“We’ve really concentrated on a lot of different things and I’ve always had a plan,” Medina said. “Normally when we come into the different nationals, we’re in, we’re out, we’re in, we’re out. If I get a scholarship, it’s probably better than winning and qualifying for PGF.

“But we’ve put a lot of time and effort into these kids and the senior class that we have right now…we’ve had them for a few years,” Medina continued. “We’ve lost a few PGF qualifiers with them and them coming off a high, the North Torrance kids winning a [CIF] championship…that’s the biggest accomplishment in their entire life. I didn’t make any calls to them because I didn’t want to disrupt them whatsoever.”