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ZOOM INTO JUNE: Artesia Punishers 18-U team ends showcase tournament on high note, ready for PGF qualifier


Shortstop Samantha Noriega (Carson High) of the Artesia Punishers 18-Under travel softball team avoids being tagged out by the (San Tan Valley, AZ) Mizuno Storm catcher in the top of the fourth inning in last Saturday’s Zoom Into June Tournament contest. Noriega would score on the play, a single from first baseman Jessi Alvarado (Gahr High, Manhattanville College) which tied the game at 2-2. Photo by Armando Vargas.


By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

CHINO HILLS-With their respective high school seasons now completed, the members of the Artesia Punishers 18-Under travel softball team were in action for the first official time this summer, participating in the Triple Crown Sports Zoom Into June Tournament. It’s not only a showcase tournament where unsigned players have an opportunity to let hundreds of college scouts/coaches see what they can do, but a tune-up for this weekend’s Premier Girls Fastpitch Southern California Qualifier.

Unlike previous years where the Zoom Into June event was held at the Diamond Valley Sports Complex in Hemet, the five games the Punishers played were held at the Big League Dreams Sports Park in Chino Hills. After a pair of 2-2 ties and a 10-2 loss last Saturday, the Punishers rebounded for a pair of victories this past Sunday.

“We ended on a really strong note and everyone is happy and has good feelings,” said Punishers head coach Bob Medina. “This team is really, really good. This is one of my better teams I’ve had. They can hit, they can play and they all like each other. They’re doing a good job and they support each other 100 percent.

“My biggest focus was trying to shake the high school stuff out of them,” he continued. “They all had different habits; different coaches who told them different things.”

This past Sunday, the Punishers rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and held on to edge the (Moreno Valley) USA Athletics-Morgan 4-3. Artesia was down 3-1 when right fielder Alexis Lopez (Los Osos High, Mitchell College) was safe on an infield single and moved to third on a double from first baseman Jessi Alvarado (Gahr High, Manhattanville College).

Pinch hitter Monica Deherrera (Ellen Ochoa Prep) then singled to the right field gap to plate Lopez. On the play, Alvarado scored on an error to tie the game and following the first out, a sacrifice fly from pitcher Yamila Evans (San Marino High, Siena College) brought in Deherrera for the game-winner.



Artesia Punishers 18-Under starting pitcher Yamila Evans (San Marino High, Siena College), delivers one of her 8- pitches last Saturday against the (San Tan Valley, AZ)  Mizuno Storm in the first game of the Zoom Into June Tournament. Evans gave up three hits and struck out five as the Punishers rallied for two runs in the top of the fourth inning to end up tying the Storm 2-2.



The Punishers were down 1-0 in the bottom of the third when Alvarado was walked and scored on a two-out double from Evans. In the circle, Evans would strikeout eight batters and scatter half a dozen hits. In the second game this past Sunday, the Punishers found themselves down again, this time 2-0 to the Whittier-based Orange County Batbusters-Bretado after the first inning. But the Punishers tied the game in the top of the third inning, then erupted for six runs the next inning for an 8-2 victory.

Left fielder Megan Soto (Santa Fe High) was hit by a pitch to begin the third and with one out, advanced on a single from left fielder Anessa Quiroz (San Pedro High, Monroe College). Back to back run-scoring singles from third baseman Samantha Noriega (Carson High) and shortstop Stephanie Jimenez (Santa Fe High, Weatherford College) tied the game.

The big blows in the fourth were a three-run home run to center from Quiroz and a two-run shot over the left center fence from Jimenez. Pitcher DeAndria Lockett (Hawthorne High, La Sierra University) was stellar in the circle, allowing two hits and striking out seven. In the two wins and the two ties combined, the Punishers collected 18 hits and made seven errors on defense. But the pitching staff of Evans and Lockett yielded 15 hits and struck out 31 batters while walking seven.

“The pitching we have,” Medina said. “We have good pitching. I’ve always had a plan every time I’ve done this and my plan this year was to come out in a short period of time because this [past] weekend, the second game was the first game they all had to play together again. So, I put a tremendous amount of pressure on them, and I constantly pushed them.”

The Punishers began the tournament with a 2-2 tie against the (San Tan Valley, AZ) Mizuno Storm-Stolze as Evans hit a solo home run down the left field line to begin the top of the fourth and Alvarado’s base hit to right allowed Noriega, who had earlier singled, to come home. All four hits the Punishers collected came in the inning. Shortly after the conclusion of that game, the Punishers were again down 2-0, this time to the (Ceres) Batbusters-Gomes/Clark. But a one-out single from Lopez plated Quiroz in the bottom of the fifth and an error on the same play allowed Noriega to come home to force the tie. Lockett struck out 11 of 15 batters through five innings. The last game of the night was a 10-2 setback to the (Temecula) Athletics-Mercado/Stancil (Temecula).

The Punishers will face the (San Diego) Breakers-Labs this evening in the first game of the PGF So Cal Qualifier. Awaiting the winner of the game will be the (Orange County) Firecrackers-Kimura. Should the Punishers lose against the Breakers, they would need to win seven straight games to gain one of the four Premier berths available to qualify for the PGF National Championships next month.

“We’re going to make sure we’re focused; I have them for three days this week,” Medina said. “Thursday will be the last practice and Friday we’ll come into the games. We will probably be as prepared as we can be. If that doesn’t work, we’ll go to Vegas and try to take it there.”