_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES _______________________


SURF CITY TOURNEYS LAS VEGAS SHOWCASE: Oldest Artesia Punishers Team Leaves Las Vegas Feeling Good in First Action of Season



LAS VEGAS-A few months ago, Utah became the first state within driving distance to open for youth sports, followed by Arizona. Now, Nevada became the latest neighboring state to open for youth sports and that’s where the Artesia Punishers 18 Gold travel softball team landed for its first tournament of the 2020-2021 season.

Early last month, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak allowed youth sports to resume in the Silver State and this past weekend, the Artesia Punishers participated in the Surf City Tourneys Las Vegas Showcase, winning the first four games in pool play action at Majestic Park before recording a tie in its final game this past Sunday afternoon. Surf City Tourneys is in conjunction with the Premier Girls Fastpitch organization.

“Everybody is excited, including the parents, the players and the coaches,” said Artesia Punishers head coach Bobby Medina. “Even though we had to go to Las Vegas to play, we’re still excited. I think they did a great job social distancing and the whole works and sanitizing everything in between games. I really was impressed on the attention that they put in towards that.”

In the past, Medina would enter his teams in November tournaments in Las Vegas.

So, even with California still closed for youth sports, Nevada was open, and the Punishers would have come to Sin City anyway.

He said that three weeks ago, the tournament director put it out there for teams to register to be a part of the tournament and a week later, the Punishers were already penciled in for anything that was coming up, according to Medina.

“We’ll do anything,” Medina said. “I believe that it’s safe the way that they’re playing and practicing. We’re going far and beyond the protocols. I’m excited that we’re out practicing. I know that there’s no games [in California]; you can’t scrimmage. That’s going to come soon. All we can do is wait.”

Medina added that the protocol routines that the players and coaches went through were tough, but they fulfilled all the obligations.

Prior to leaving for Las Vegas, everyone had to get a COVID test at the beginning of last week, and if anyone came up positive, then the Punishers were not going to come out to Las Vegas. The team had to have a temperature check 10 days prior to the event and it had to be monitored on a piece of paper.

Upon arrival to Majestic Park all three days, everyone was given temperature check and if anyone were above the required temperature, the Punishers could not go forward.

The Punishers began the tournament last Friday evening with a 2-1 win against the (Rancho Cucamonga) IE Outbreak.

On the second pitch of the game, first baseman Bailey Jacobsen (Cypress High) singled and stole second. But three straight strikeouts ended that threat.

In the next inning, third baseman Cheyanne Gomez (Lakewood High) singled and stole second.

An out later, left fielder Jessica Lopez (Los Osos High) and shortstop Alexis Vargas (Anaheim High) each singled to load the bases. However, no one scored as the Outbreak would grab a 1-0 lead in its half of the inning.

But in the next inning, the Punishers would hit paydirt as Jacobsen led off with an infield single and advanced to third on a double from Valerie Jorgensen (Pacifica High).

A walk issued to right fielder Isabella Mondragon (Martin Luther King High) loaded the bases. Jacobsen would later score on a wild pitch and with one out, a groundout from Gomez plated Jorgensen for the game winner.

The Punishers, who tallied seven hits in the game, would get one more hit the rest of the way, the third from Jacobsen, and would strand seven runners on base.

Rachelle Garcia (Monrovia High) would scatter six hits, strikeout one and yield an unearned run.

“We know that we have a good team,” Medina said. “We don’t know what we’re going to get because we haven’t played in so long. You don’t know if the kids are going to strive forward and fight through the game or they’re going to kind of lay back and say, ‘hey, we’re not sure what to expect’. They did well, they came out and they started putting things together.”

Right after that game, the Punishers posted a 4-1 win against the (Sacramento) USA Proud as they scored twice in the bottom of the third inning to break a 1-1 tie.

In the bottom of the second inning, left fielder Jazmine Macias (La Mirada High) was walked, stole a pair of bases and came home on a two-out single from shortstop Alyssa Lee (South Torrance High).

In the next frame, a walk to Jacobsen was followed up four pitches later by a two-run home run from Jorgensen.

The final run came in the fifth when pinch hitter Taina Togia (Kennedy High) singled with two outs and scored on a base hit from Gomez.

Jorgensen went two for three while Bakersfield resident Kamryn Lopez (Frontier High) worked the first three innings, scattering five hits and striking out three while Garcia went the final two innings, yielding two hits and striking out two.

“We have good numbers up there and I believe we have the right people and we’re finding even a tougher batting lineup like we used to be,” Medina said. “That’s my goal and I talk about it all the time. We used to have 12 number four hitters and that’s our goal; to have 12 number four hitters. So, the girls are finding it. You’re getting the spark with Bailey in the beginning [and] Val is a tough out and it just goes on and on and one. Even six, seven and eight in the lineup are tough outs.”

On Saturday morning, with a game-time temperature of 57 degrees at 10:00 and wind gusts from 21 to 24 miles per hour throughout the morning, the Punishers posted a 3-2 win over the Utah Thunder followed by a 7-2 victory over the (North Las Vegas) Lil’ Rebels-Paiva.

The big blow against the Thunder was a one-out, bases-clearing double from Mondragon in the top of the fifth inning, erasing a 1-0 deficit.

Through the first four innings, the Punishers had no hits and just four baserunners.

All three hits the Punishers got in the game came in the fifth while Lopez, who worked the first three innings, and Garcia each gave up a pair of hits and allowed a run.

Following the win, the clouds came in from the south and the Punishers survived a light drizzle, which turned to light rain by 1:10 p.m., as they scored four runs in the top of the first inning, one in the second and two in the third for the blowout win.

Jacobsen went three for three, Garcia went two for two with three runs batted in and Togia had a hit, a walk and scored twice.

Garcia also went three innings, escaping a pair of scoring threats while yielding two hits and two walks.

“I believe the kids are believing in themselves,” Medina said. “I believe they’re really feeling the mojo. You hear them yelling; you hear them running to the bases going ‘yeah’ after they get a hit. They’re just screaming and yelling back and forth. The dugout is communicating with the people on the bases. It’s generating positive energy to the batter. I was very impressed on everything they did out there. Under the weather and the rain, the little sprinkle that was coming down, they played very, very well.

“Being in that extreme cold and, not only that, challenging the kids from not playing for a long time…to put them through these elements, my hat’s off to everyone on the team,” he later said. “The coaches stood in there, the players stood in there, and they still had spirit no matter how cold it was. The elements were tough, but as long as they don’t call the game, we’re still playing and we’re getting our games in.”

This past Sunday afternoon against the (Camarillo) Easton Preps-Jimenez the Punishers scored twice in the top of the second inning before giving up two runs in the bottom half of the inning as the contest ended in a 2-2 tie.

After stranding the bases loaded in the top of the first inning, walks issued to Jessica Lopez and Vargas set the stage for Jacobsen, whose single plated Lopez.

Moments later, with runners on the corners, Vargas stole home for the second run.

“Our bats were dead: they didn’t do anything with the bats,” Medina said. “That was our biggest problem for that game.”

Next up for the Punishers Gold team is potentially another tournament in Las Vegas, either at the beginning of December or sometime in January.

Medina said he is waiting to see if that tournament is approved by state officials.

The Punishers 16-Under team, also coached by Medina and Leo Amaya didn’t fare as well as its older counterparts, claiming one victory in seven games in the same tournament.

The lone win came last Saturday morning in a 5-3 victory over the (Tracy) All American Sports Academy-Hood. In the six losses, the Punishers were outscored 47-12.

“These are good quality teams that work hard to be a Division I player and we’re trying to get the 16s at that same level,” Medina said. “I think they’re going to do fine in the future. But it is travel ball. People rise to the top and they don’t rise to the top, and having a PGF 16 and Under team, we’re looking for the ones that rise to the top.

“I think they did well overall,” he continued. “I think we had some good standouts that stood out and really impressed us. They got hits constantly throughout the weekend.”