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TRIPLE CROWN SPORTS ZOOM INTO JUNE TOURNAMENT: Artesia Punishers 18 Gold team takes on a new look this summer

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

RIVERSIDE-If it’s the Triple Crown Sports Zoom Into June Tournament, then you know it’s the beginning of another busy summer in the world of travel softball. And for the Artesia Punishers Gold team as well as other teams, this tournament generally is an audition for hundreds of players to show college coaches and scouts what they’re made of.

But this summer will be different than past summers for head coach, and president of the Punishers, Bob Medina in that in the upcoming weeks, his team won’t be participating in any Premier Girls Fastpitch qualifying tournaments. Last July, the Punishers took third in the Platinum Division of the PGF National Championship, thus earning an automatic berth into next month’s event. That means no trip to Hemet for this weekend’s Southern California qualifier and no trip to Las Vegas the following week for another qualifier as has been the case the previous few summers.

Instead, Medina can concentrate on doing other important tasks, like getting his players scholarships and putting together what would be an everyday starting lineup for when next month’s PGF National Championship comes around.

“This is probably the most exciting time and favorite time of the summer because it’s the start of the recruitment season,” Medina said. “Our goal…that’s to get them into college. I’m so excited and I have a smile on my face walking around because I just love it. I have a lot of good, solid kids.”

Last weekend, the Punishers were involved in the Zoom Into June Tournament at Big League Dreams in Riverside and Orange Terrace Park in Riverside as well as the Surf City Tourneys June Premier Showcase in Fountain Valley. The Punishers played five games each at the two events and even had to split their team up after the first of two games at the Zoom Into June this past Sunday so they could make it back in Fountain Valley in time for a 4:00 game.

“We have both teams here, so we have a roster of 26,” Medina said. “The challenge is very hard; the traffic is tough. But, it kind of brings them into perspective and they all work as a group and they know have to do it together. We have to do it together. The biggest challenge is doing the showcases and preparing for PGF.”

“I have a straight hands-on with both teams because this is our future and we’re really focused on that,” Medina continued. “They get a taste of what’s really is going on. Some of the older girls get to mentor them and the younger girls get to see it. That’s how we create this over and over.”

Medina is combining the Punishers 16-Under team of last season, coached by Joseph Fletcher, that went to the United States Specialty Sports Association Far West Nationals in Chino Hills with the one he has for this season. He says that his approach is trying to find the top 12 that are going to compete at the nationals and adds that everyone’s spot is available, the competition is tough and the stress for the younger kids is great because ‘they’re going to learn how to be solid, good college players’.

The Punishers went 1-3-1 in the Zoom Into June, beating the Batbusters-Clark 5-1 last Friday before tying the Fresno Force 3-3 and falling to the (Orange County) Firecrackers-Kimura 18-3 last Saturday. The Punishers were blasted by the So Cal Athletics-Bagatourian 11-0 and the Arizona Storm-Stolze 6-1 this past Sunday.

Against the Fresno Force, the Punishers got all their runs in the top of the first inning with Ariana Hamilton (Downey High), Jennifer Aguilar (Santa Fe High, Howard College) and Charlene Fregoso (Artesia High) scoring. The Punishers would get two on with two outs in the next inning and leave two runners on base in the fourth and fifth innings as well.

In the next game, the Firecrackers scored half a dozen runs in the bottom of the first inning but blew the game wide open with an 11-spot in the bottom of the third. The Punishers were held to five hits, three of which came in the top of the fourth inning when their three runs were scored.

In the Surf City Tourneys June Premier Showcase, the Punishers went 1-2-1 and were outscored 11-5.

“I think it’s a different approach for us,” Medina said. “The different approach is now the kids have the mental state of we’re already qualified, so we don’t have to go in there to qualify. Before we used to put the pressure on them that would prepare them for Nationals. It’s a good experience for the coaches and myself in order to prepare and balance 26 kids’ preparing them to get into college. That’s a different atmosphere than we’ve had. They have to work harder.”

While Medina wasn’t ready to disclose some of his key players he has for 2019, he did say that he has three very strong pitchers-Yasmine Castellanos (California High, St. Lawrence University), Taylor Genera (Whitney High, Chaminade University) and Katherine Serna (St. Paul High). The infield and outfield are also strong, which means the upcoming friendlies and other games in the upcoming weeks should be interesting.

“I think I have great athletes,” Medina said. “It’s the ones who are offensively is what’s going to be on. UCLA, I believe, during the {NCAA Women’s College World Series] made a comment, and the comment was, ‘defense keeps you in the game, offense wins it.”