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SURF CITY TOURNEYS SUMMER SHOWCASE Artesia Punishers 18 Gold team busy in tune-up for Champions Cup, PGF Nationals

Mikala Fletcher (Downey High) of the Artesia Punishers 18 Gold travel softball team scores one of her three runs against the (Fresno) American Athletics this past Sunday in the Surf City Tourneys Summer Showcase. Fletcher went four for four in the 8-1 victory. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer


By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

FOUNTAIN VALLEY-In preparation for the upcoming Champions Cup, one of the most prestigious college showcase tournaments in Southern California, and the Premier Girls Fastpitch Nationals, the Artesia Punishers 18 Gold travel softball team was still getting some work done in the Surf City Tourneys Summer Showcase this past weekend. The Punishers, who tied their first game last Saturday before coming up short in their second game, had two solid victories this past Sunday before ending the Summer Showcase with a tie.

“The way I prepped up before the game was that we’re preparing for PGF in two weeks,” said Punishers longtime assistant coach Ed Blanck. “And then, I told them, when they were going up to bat, to be confident; to have their confidence and their demeanor and in their mind that they can hit the ball. That was the basic; the whole thing was about confidence.”

The Punishers tied the (Fountain Valley) So Cal Athletics-Bagatourian 4-4 and lost to the (Roseville) CA YardSharks-Price 1-2 before breaking out the bats this past Sunday against the (Fresno) American Athletics-Kamimoto, busting a close game wide open with a five-run top of the fourth inning en route to an 8-1 victory.

Three pitches into the game, Mikala Fletcher (Downey High) singled to left and two batters later, consecutive base hits from Taylor Genera (Whitney High/Chaminade University) and Yasmine Castellanos (California High/St. Lawrence University) loaded the bases. Ariana Hamilton(Downey High) then grounded out to bring in Fletcher.

The Punishers added a run in the top of the third inning when Castellanos and Hamilton each singled and advanced on a wild pitch. One out later, a groundout from Katherine Serna (St. Paul High) plated Castellanos. The American Athletics would score an unearned run in the bottom half of the inning before the Punishers put the game away.

On the first pitch Sophie Little (Culver City High) was safe on an infield single. Fletcher and Jennifer Aguilar (Santa Fe High/Howard College) each had singles to left field after seeing a combined three pitches. With the bases loaded, Genera was hit to make it 3-1 and a sacrifice fly from Castellanos allowed Fletcher to come home.

Hamilton and Skylar Liebrecht (St. Joseph High) would continue the barrage with a single and double respectively and Serna would drive in the final run of the inning with a groundout. In the next inning, Castellanos drove in Fletcher with a two-out single to right field.

Fletcher went four for four and Castellanos went three for three while Hamilton and Little each collected two hits. Castellanos and Serna also combined to give up two hits while striking out four.

Immediately after the game, the Punishers again broke a close game wide open late and went on to crush the Firecrackers Huntington Beach-Caswell 11-1. The Firecrackers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning as Gianna Alvidrez reached on an infield hit and scored on a single from Miah Hartvigsen. After that, three pitchers combined to give up one more hit over the next four innings.

The Punishers tied the contest in the top of the third inning when Fletcher tripled with one out and scored on a groundout from Aguilar. In the next inning, nine batters came to the plate and the Punishers posted six hits with the big blow being a bases-clearing double from Aguilar. One inning later, eight batters came to the plate and again, Aguilar had another bases-clearing double.

The top three batters in the lineup-Fletcher, Aguilar and Genera went a combined seven for 11 with nine runs driven in and five runs scored. In addition, Castellanos, Genera, Serna and Angelina Perez (Norwalk High) combined to throw 56 pitches, walk one and strikeout one in five innings of work.

After that game, the Punishers tied the (Temecula) OC Batbusters-Guzman/Johnson 0-0 and despite a slow start to the summer because of a relatively young team, Blanck admitted he’s surprised it has taken this long to get it together with the PGF Nationals on the horizon.

“Because their young and it has taken a little bit of more time to learn,” Blanck said. “I think it was the lack of confidence. So now, I understand they’re working towards that.”

The Punishers began the Champions Cup with a pair of pool play games this past Wednesday and had one more on July 11 before playing two more games today with the single elimination playoffs beginning on Saturday and ending on Sunday.

I would say [we’re at] 60 percent,” Blanck said. “We have two weeks to do it in, and I think they’re getting prepared right now, and the Champions Cup, and then we’ll see how we do in PGF.”

The Artesia Punishers 16-Under team, coached by Joseph Alvarez, was also in the Summer Showcase and didn’t fare as well as the Gold team. Alvarez’ team won two of five games and were blanked in two of those contests.

The Punishers began the tournament with a narrow 5-3 loss to the Clovis Rockets-Luna last Saturday morning after taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Lexi De Leon (San Pedro High) led off with a single and one out later, Taylor Parriott (Los Alamitos High) followed with a base hit. Both runners would advance on an error with De Leon scoring. Jazel Lopez (Carson High) would then reach on an error with Parriott coming home.

After the Rockets tied the game in the bottom of the second inning, the Punishers regained the lead in the next inning as Carla Hollins (Santa Monica High) led off with a double and Allyza Camacho (Warren High) brought her in with a single. Hollins went three for three while Camacho and Parriott each had a pair of hits.

Later in the morning, the Punishers rebounded for a 5-1 win against the (Martinez) NorCal Shockers-Creecy, highlighted by a three-run top of the fifth inning. The Punishers had solo tallies in the first and second innings as Hollins led off the game with a walk, stole two bases and scored on an error before the next batter walked. Later in the game, Leilani Pina (Cerritos High) singled and scored on a double from Mikala Jacobsen (Cypress High). Later in the inning, Jacobsen scored on a passed ball.

De Leon went two for three and drove in a run while Onnika Haughey (Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa High) pitched a two-hitter, yielding an unearned run.

Following the game, the Punishers were blasted by the (Glendale, AZ) FirecrackersSchoeneweis 11-0 as they could only muster one hit, a one-out single from Parriott in the top of the second inning. But this past Sunday morning, the Punishers bounded back and rallied from a 5-0 deficit to knock off the USA Athletics-Collis/Medina 7-5 with all their runs coming in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Haughey began the onslaught by reaching on an error before being replaced by courtesy runner Arianna Hernandez (Lakewood High). Caitlyn Martinez (Cypress High), Lopez, Angelina Mendoza (Millikan High) and Hollins all had successive hits before the first out was recorded. Pina then had a run-scoring double and after the second out, Parriott, De Leon and Haughey all had singles.

Hollins went three for three and drove in two while Martinez, Mendoza, Parriott and Pina all had a pair of hits as part of a 14-hit attack. The tournament ended with the Punishers falling to the (El Monte) OC Batbusters-Gresham 12-0. Hollins and Pina both went one for two, the only hits the Punishers would get. Hollins got her it in the top of the first inning, a double, while Pina would single with two outs in the top of the fourth inning.