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TRIPLE CROWN SPORTS ZOOM INTO JUNE TOURNAMENT; Artesia Punishers 18 Gold team tunes up for final time before qualifiers

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter


HEMET-It was a cloudy to partly cloudy, unusually cool and windy day this past Sunday when the Artesia Punishers 18 Gold team wrapped up its work in the prestigious Triple Crown Sports Zoom Into June Tournament at the Diamond Valley Complex. It was also the first real time the Punishers have had to work since the high school softball season ended.

Unlike the tournament that the team will participate in this weekend, the Zoom Into June is a showcase tournament, one that saw at least 245 colleges or universities make their appearance at, hoping to sign or come close to signing the one or two players for next season.

“First and foremost, we’ve won Nationals, so it’s not a national tournament anymore,” said longtime Punishers coach Bob Medina. “But to come out and show well is really important for us. To get them out of the high school mode is really important for us. Those are the obstacles that we’re facing now. Not only that, right when the kids are out of school, it all starts real quick.”

The Punishers began the tournament tying the (Upland) American Pasttime 4-4 before falling to the (La Palma) California A’s-White team 1-0 last Saturday night. This past Sunday afternoon, the Punishers found themselves down 9-0 to the (Vista) Southern California Breakers after two and a half innings and eventually fell 12-4.

The Punishers allowed three runs in the top of the first inning and six more in the third before getting on board. Alexis Lopez (Los Osos High) was hit on the first pitch of the inning and because this is a showcase tournament, any batter can remain at the plate as many times as necessary so college coaches can scout.

So, Lopez was immediately up again and she was hit again on the next pitch. Three pitches later, Lopez reached on an infield single to load the bases. That was followed by an infield single from Casey Moritz (Villa Park High/Salem International University), which brought home Alianna Orduna (Villa Park/Manhattanville College). Jessi Alvarado (Gahr High) would score the second run on a wild pitch before Lopez scored on a single from one of two players from an Artesia Punishers team based out of Henderson, Nevada. In the next inning, Anessa Quiroz (San Pedro High) reached on an error and came home on a single from Lopez.

“The Saturday games were really good; they went really well,” Medina said. “They kind of got us back in the mold. I was able to practice last week and we played this week. It is what it is. We’re there, the team is good. It’s just that we have to play as a team.

“We had a lot of interest from the colleges,” he continued. “Of course, I have to play all of my girls who do not have scholarships.”

The Punishers then had some time, plus more unexpected time, before facing the Corona Angels. Eventually, they would fall 5-1 as the Angles scored three times in the bottom of the fourth to put it away. The game began 45 minutes late due to the lack of umpires that were still around in the early evening hours.

The Angels scored twice in the first inning, the first courtesy of Gahr’s Madison Huskey, who singled, went to second when Sydnee Huff was walked, stole third and came home on a wild pitch. The lone run for the Punishers came in the third when Kieren Lopez (Bakersfield-based Frontier High) singled on the 10th pitch she saw, and came home on a double from Yamila Evans (San Marino High/Sienna College). Evans would go two for two and was the starting pitcher.

“Yami did really good,” Medina said. “Yami’s been one of my stars and she’ll be with me next year. I have a plan all the time, but she’s always in the loop. You always try to prep them for the leadership for the following year and she has really taken on that role.

“They’re really good; they’re always really good,” Medina later added of the Angels. “We were working out some stuff and we had a couple of players who were over with our other 18-Under team. But that’s not an excuse.”

The Punishers were to play the (Granada Hills) Southern California Pumas-Black team. But after waiting for 45 minutes after the completion of the Corona Angels game, both coaches mutually agreed not to play, considering the long distance the Pumas would have had to travel late in the night. The game was to start at 6:30 and both teams decided to call it a night at 7:30.

Despite not winning over the weekend, it was still a learning experience for the Punishers as bigger and more important tournaments are on the horizon.

“I tell the girls that the more [the opponent] hits, the more you can make a play,” Medina said. “And the more you can practice, the more you can prepare. And the ones who aren’t signed, those are the girls that can get out there and have the opportunity to shine. It doesn’t hurt us. It’s not about the win or loss for me. Of course, everybody is out to win nowadays. I think that’s the norm. We look at it as if we get a scholarship, I feel we’ve accomplished our goal.”

The Punishers will be back at the Diamond Valley Complex this morning as they will compete in the first of two possible qualifiers for a berth in the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championships. The Punishers will face the Pumas and with a win, will play again at 4:00 today. A loss to the Pumas will send the Punishers into the loser’s bracket where they will have to brave triple digit heat on Saturday and win four games, the first at 8:00, then be a victor in another three games on Sunday to earn a berth in the Platinum Division.

“We’re about as ready as we can be,” Medina said. “I know we have the pitching; pitching is not the problem. I know we have the hitters; hitting is not the problem. I think the chemistry is going to be the most important part. But, if we don’t qualify, I’m not mad at them. We sacrificed the scholarships for the championships.”

Elsewhere in the Zoom Into June Tournament, the Mira Loma-based Punishers 18-Under team, coached by Dave Lindsey, went 3-1-1 with two games last Saturday played at Noble Creek Park and three more this past Sunday played at Valle Vista Park.

In the 16-Under division, one of the two teams based out of Henderson with the Artesia Punishers name, went 5-1 in games played at Big League Dreams in West Covina last Saturday and Big League Dreams in Chino Hills this past Sunday.

The 14-Under Artesia Punishers team, based out of Highland and coached by Mike Leyvas, went 4-0-1 with games played at Reid Park and Big League Dreams in Riverside while another team in that same age division, went winless in five games.