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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW: Pair of Artesia Punishers 16-U teams come up short in Las Vegas Qualifier


By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

The Artesia Punishers were represented by a pair of 16-Under travel softball teams last weekend in the Las Vegas Qualifier, hoping to claim an automatic berth in July’s Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championship. However, the two teams combined to win once in five games with the lone victory by Vince Gonzales’ team coming against the squad coached by Joseph Alvarez in an elimination game.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t fare too well this past weekend and simply beat ourselves,” Gonzales said.

Last Saturday morning, the Punishers, coached by Vince Gonzales, fell to the (Yorba Linda) Explosion-Hilliard 6-1 with the lone tally coming in the top of the fifth inning. With one out and already down 6-0, right fielder Alexis Duenas (Artesia High) singled and was replaced by pinch hitter Alyssa Araujo (Paramount High). First baseman Amber Solorzano (South East High) then singled with Araujo going to third. Following the second out, left fielder Briana Zarate (Legacy High) brought in Araujo with a base hit to center.

Later in the day, Gonzales’ team was involved in another 6-1 decision, this time a victory over the Joseph Alvarez team in an elimination contest. Single tallies in the bottom of the first and second innings, and a four-run fourth inning was all that was needed. In the first, with the bases loaded on three straight walks, designated player Mia Nordgren (Millikan High) singled in Duenas.

In the next inning with two outs and two on by way of a pair of walks, Duenas singled to score shortstop MayaLedesma (Millikan High). The Punishers would put together another two-out rally in the fourth inning as Ledesma singled and eventually scored on a passed ball and Solorzano clearing the bases with a double, plating catcher Mya Diaz (Anaheim High), first baseman Elyse Silva (Los Alamitos High) and Duenas.

Rachelle Garcia (Monrovia High) worked the first three innings, giving up a pair of hits and striking out three while Clarissa Lockett (Hawthorne Math and Science Academy) came in for the final two innings, striking out five.

The lone tally for the Alvarez team came in the top of the fifth inning when left fielder Caitlyn Martinez walked with two outs and came home on a triple from shortstop Carla Hollins.

But following the game, the Punishers-Gonzales were knocked out of the tournament by the (Las Vegas) Lil Rebels-RC 9-2. The Punishers grabbed a two-run lead after a half an inning when center fielder Jessica Lopez (Los Osos High), Duenas and Diaz all singled to lead off the game. The Lil Rebels scored five times in the bottom half of the frame and one more in the next inning to make sure the Punishers wouldn’t mount a rally. After the first inning, the Punishers were held to two hits.

In the three games, the Punishers-Gonzales had a combined 13 hits, but the defense committed eight errors and half of the runs scored against them were earned.

“This year’s team has a good mix of athletes with both strong veterans and fast, athletic first-year 16s,” Gonzales said. We look forward to learning from our mistakes from this past weekend and putting it together soon so we can be primed and ready for Nationals. Our coaching staff believes that we have all the pieces we need to compete at a consistent high level and looking forward to having a strong 2019 summer.”

Next up for Gonzales’ team will be the USA Softball Father’s Day Tournament at South Gate Park on June 16, then the PGF Fresno Qualifier June 21-23.

As for the other Punishers team, they were blasted by the (El Dorado Hills) Foothill Gold-Pfeiler 9-3 last Saturday morning. Foothill grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning before the Punishers tied the game in the top of the second inning. Leilani Pina singled and would later come home on an error. But Foothill scored four runs in the bottom of the second inning before the Punishers tried to get back in the game in the top of the fourth inning.

Martinez singled and Hollins and Pina were both walked to begin the inning. Martinez would touch home plate on a double play and Pina came home on a double from Lulu De Leon to complete the scoring. Foothill would ice the game with three runs in its half of the inning.


The closest Malia Quarles got to a championship, other than a San Gabriel Valley League title, was the semifinals in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs. Now, the former Gahr High slugger can call herself a National Champion.

The sophomore designated player and her UCLA team knocked off the University of Oklahoma this past Monday and Tuesday night to win the school’s 12thsoftball title and first since 2010. UCLA entered the WCWS as the second ranked team in the nation.

Quarles went a combined one for seven in five games played in Oklahoma City, but the one hit was a punch hit solo home run against the University of Arizona last Friday as part of a 6-2 victory that kept the Bruins in the winner’s bracket.

With the score tied 1-1 heading into the top of the sixth inning, Quarles pinch hit for Brianna Tautalafua and launched a full-count pitch over the centerfield wall for her fourth home run of the season, three of which have come as a pinch hitter.

“I didn’t swing at the two previous pitches,” Quarles said at the postgame press conference. “I’m not striking out. I’m going to hit there. I saw the pitch; I’m swinging as hard as I can. I just swung. It felt pretty good.”

Another former Gahr standout and current University of Washington right fielder Madison Huskey, had three hits in 13 at-bats in four games. Huskey had singles against the University of Minnesota and Oklahoma State University last Saturday in elimination games and had a single against UCLA this past Sunday. Huskey also scored once against Minnesota in the 5-3 victory.


Gahr High senior shortstop Tyrese Turner was selected by the Miami Marlins in the 38thround of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft earlier in the week. Turner becomes the 13thplayer out of Gahr to be drafted with two currently on an MLB roster-Chris Devenski for the Houston Astros and Jake Faria for the Tampa Bay Rays. The last time a Gahr player was selected in the draft was two years ago when outfielder Je’Von Ward was picked by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 12thround.