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SUBURBAN LEAGUE SOFTBALL: Artesia feeling more confident after putting on an offensive display against Norwalk

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter


For those that may have written off the Artesia High softball team from making the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoffs for a second straight season, you can put away your crayons and scratch paper for now. The Lady Pioneers are still in the postseason hunt, especially after the work they performed on Norwalk High last Thursday.

Artesia sent 15 batters to the plate in the top of the third and fourth innings combined, pounded out 13 hits for the game and knocked out Norwalk senior pitcher Breanna Vasquez in the third inning as part of a 10-4 victory. The win allowed the Lady Pioneers to catch the host Lady Lancers for fourth place in the Suburban League. The win also avenged an earlier 6-2 home loss on Mar. 20 in which Norwalk collected 14 hits and held Artesia to just four. Finally, the 10 runs scored were the most against any Norwalk team in at least 21 seasons.

“I think our mentality was different,” said Artesia head coach Dayna Feenstra. “We came in with a little bit more confidence. I have a very young team, mostly freshmen and sophomores with two juniors playing. So, coming in there knowing we have a 17 or 18-year old pitching who’s going to a [NCAA] D-1 school was a little intimidating. Mentally, we’re getting stronger as the year goes on.”

“I’m kind of at a loss for words,” said Norwalk first-year head coach David Gonzalez. “You really didn’t expect them to come out flat this way. I have to do a better job of keeping them focused throughout the week. We’re starting to get to the end of school and I think people are already starting to look toward summertime.”

Before Vasquez struck out the last three batters she faced in the first, Artesia sophomore center fielder Camryn Thompson reached on the first of five Norwalk errors and scored on a wild pitch. Norwalk would respond with three runs in the bottom of the first, but the visitors bounced back two innings later, and with a vengeance.

With one out and sophomore designated player Leilani Pati on first after a walk, Thompson was safe on an infield single and stole second. Vasquez then posted her sixth strikeout in 10 batters faced before junior second baseman Natalie Luna’s base hit tied the game. Junior third baseman Brenda Duran would then reach on an error and Luna would give the Lady Pioneers a 4-3 lead on sophomore first baseman Charlene Fregoso’s single to the right field gap.

The hitting continued in the next inning with the big hits coming from Thompson, whose single to right field plated a pair and Luna’s two-run home run over the left center fence which made it 8-3.

“I just told them to keep believing in themselves,” Feenstra said. “We just played Cerritos where we were down, came back, down [again] and came back [again]. We have a lot of fight. I told them to keep fighting.”

It was at that point that Gonzalez pulled Vasquez, who has signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Central Florida. Even though she struck out half a dozen batters, Vasquez gave up seven hits and only two earned runs. She was replaced by senior Angelina Perez.

“This team did a great job of just trying to make contact with pitches,” Gonzalez said. “And when you have somebody who throws as hard as Bre, just making contact, the ball will do some stuff.”

“Last year she was very intimidating,” Thompson said. “But this year, I’m more confident and I wasn’t as scared to hit the ball.

For added measure, the Lady Pioneers scored once in the fifth on a double from sophomore shortstop Valerie Joaquin and a single from freshman right fielder Isabel Navarro and another in the sixth on three singles and an error. One of those singles came from Thompson, who went three for five with three runs scored. But in her last four at-bats, she saw a total of four pitches.

“I adore Camryn,” Feenstra said. “She’s a great kid; a 4.0 student, she’s an all-around package of a player. She works hard every practice. She’s trying to lead the team; being a little bit more aggressive. She’s the person we have batting first because we know what she can do up to bat. She is by far one of the best slappers in the league.”

“Oh, she’s incredible, she’s probably the fastest player in the league, and I don’t think it’s even close,” Gonzalez said. “It’s been miserable trying to get her out. Even the last time we played them over there and we won, I think she got on [base] every time. She sets the tone for their lineup.”

The top three in Artesia’s lineup-Thompson, freshman catcher Zoey Williams and Luna-went a combined six for 13 with six runs scored and six runs batted in. Navarro went three for four while Joaquin added a pair of hits in four trips to the plate and picked up the win in relief of freshman Shelby Hile, who worked only the first inning.

“In this league, every team has great hitters,” Feenstra said. “They already saw Shelby in the first game and our plan was to only throw her a few innings. But once they scored a few, we wanted to make the change right away.”

Norwalk scored three of its four runs on singles from Vasquez and Perez, a double from sophomore shortstop Brianna Nunez and sacrifices from freshman designated player Allison Conrad and freshman catcher Estefania Perez. Nunez went three for four while Perez and Vasquez each collected a pair of hits.

“I think it’s an unfortunate culture that we got comfortable with, that we didn’t expect to do a whole lot,” Gonzalez said. “I think the culture was, cool of we make playoffs; that’s fine. But I don’t think it’s been a priority for a lot of the kids here at this point. And it’s something that we have to change and going forward, I expect it to change.”

Artesia would fall to La Mirada High 15-9 this past Tuesday and are sitting at 8-10 overall and 3-5 in league. The Lady Pioneers will visit last place John Glenn High on Tuesday and sixth place Bellflower High on Thursday. Norwalk, which was no-hit by senior Jennifer Morinishi of Cerritos High this past Tuesday, dropped to 7-9, 3-5 as it hosted La Mirada on Apr. 26. The Lady Lancers will also be home to Mayfair High on Tuesday and Glenn on Thursday.

“I love my chances right now,” Feenstra said. “I think we’re going to surprise a lot of the teams that we lost to in the first round. We’re coming off really hot and we feel good. It clicked for us [today], so we’re ready for everyone.”

“Now, it’s time for us to steal a win and it’s kind of hard to call it stealing a win when you have a lot of home game coming up,” Gonzalez said. “But that’s what we have to do. We have to steal a win from teams that are expected to win and I think we can.”