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TRIPLE CROWN SPORTS RED, WHITE AND BLUE TOURNAMENT : Shorthanded Artesia Punishers 14-Under team struggles in final tournament before Nationals

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

DANA POINT-The Artesia Punishers 14-Under travel softball team, coached by Andy Macias, has not played in too many tournaments this past spring and summer. But, the one tournament that matters will be the one the team will play in in the few weeks, which will be the USA Nationals.

The Punishers, with only 11 players for this tournament, went 1-2 in pool play action last Saturday at Dana Hills High, then fell to the (Rancho Cucamonga) Firecrackers-Garcia 9-5 this past Sunday for its only game in the single elimination tournament.

The Punishers were unable to get a runner on base through the first three innings, but it was a completely different story in the bottom of the fourth inning when 11 batters stepped up to the plate.

On the first pitch, Jazmine Macias (Bellflower High) smacked a home run to the left field gap. That would be flowed by base hits from Peyton Brusick (Palos Verdes High), Alicia Amaya (Bellflower High) and Keili Bailey (Bellflower High).

Three pitches later, Mia Mastan (Ridgecrest Intermediate) reached on an error before singles from Lily Uriarte (St. Pancratius) and Lucy Montelongo (Marshall Academy) loaded the bases. On a 2-2 count, a base hit to center from Anaiyah Yniquez (Our Lady of Rosary) brought home Mastan to make it a 4-2 contest.

“In the fourth inning, that’s when we made changes,” Macias said. “We got our little girls in there. They’re actually 12-year old’s playing 14-U. We got them in there because they’re very good bunters and some of them just keep the ball on the ground.”

Despite a scoreless fifth inning from both teams, the Punishers were still feeling the momentum. But that was immediately lost when the Firecrackers erupted for seven runs to blow the game wide open. After Mastan worked the first five frames, allowing four hits and the two runs while throwing 46 pitches, Jazmine Macias replaced her and was greeted with a two-pitch triple from Isabel Tellez. Two straight hits and a walk loaded the bases and following an out, two consecutive run-scoring singles made the score 7-4.

“We made the change for the reason that we had went [through] the batting order twice and…our center fielder is our main pitcher,” Andy Macias said. “As you could see, they were hitting everything off her and we had to go back to our number two pitcher.”

The Punishers wouldn’t go down without a fight in the bottom of the sixth inning. With one out, Uriarte singled to left but was out on second when Montelongo reached on a fielder’s choice. Yniquez then tripled three pitches later but was thrown out at home trying to stretch the hit into an inside the park home run.

“We sent her because the ball was hit all the way to the fence,” Macias said. “I think we had a good chance and the blue told us at the end if she would have slid, she would have been safe.”

Yniquez was the lone Punisher to get two hits while seven players all picked up a hit. The loss wrapped up a rough weekend that saw the Punishers fall to the (Costa Mesa) California Cruisers-Lowry 7-0 as they were held to two hits with only three runners reaching first base. In the next game, the Punishers rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the first inning to knock off the Santa Ana Xtreme-Maquivi 6-3. But pool play action ended with a 15-2 setback to the  (Temecula) EC Bullets-Delamater.

The Punishers will take this weekend off, then spend the first two weekends next month playing in friendlies before participating in the USA Southern California Championships July 17-21, which they had qualified for a few weeks ago in the state qualifier where they finished in third place. At time of press, there were 10 14-Under teams that had qualified for the USA Southern California Championships.

In 2016, the Punishers finished in fifth place in the Amateur Softball Association National Championship. The next season, they were second in the American Fastpitch Association National Championship and last season, the Punishers finished in second place in the United States Specialty Sports Association National Championship as well as fifth place in the USA National Championship.