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TRIPLE CROWN SPORTS ZOOM INTO JUNE – Artesia Punishers kept busy in first major showcase tournament of summer

June 18, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


RIVERSIDE-Fresh off the heels of going two and out in the Premier Girls Fastpitch Las Vegas Qualifier the last weekend of May, the Artesia Punishers 16-Under travel softball team was back at it in the Triple Crown Sports Zoom into June Tournament last weekend. The Punishers braved the first heat wave of the summer, playing five games at Orange Terrace Park, but could only muster one victory.

On top of that, the Punishers, who were outscored 17-8 in Las Vegas, scored 15 runs last weekend while yielding 40. The lone win came in the second of three games last Saturday, a 4-0 conquest over the (Ontario) Firecrackers Brashear Futures.

“The girls just have to get more conditioning and they need to work out more on hitting,” said Artesia Punishers head coach Leo Amaya. “We lost because of hitting. They need to start figuring out about hitting-wise. Base hits win games.”

The Punishers began the tournament last Friday with a 12-2 loss to the (Anaheim) SoCal Athletics Briggs/Todoroki with both runs coming in the top of the first inning. Outfielder Madison Morgan [Valley Christian High] reached on an error and one out later, Mia Mastan [Peninsula High] collected the first of just three hits the team would get in the game. Four pitches later, pitcher Anaiyah Yniguez [Bellflower High] singled in both runs. After that, two Punishers would reach base over the next four innings.

Last Saturday morning, the Punishers were on the short end of a 7-3 affair with the (Rancho Cucamonga) Orange County Batbusters-Roelling.

The Punishers jumped out of the gates in the bottom of the first inning when Morgan was walked and replaced by pinch runner Nathaly Ochoa [Bellflower High], who would steal second. After a base hit from Morgan, who reentered the game which you can do in showcase games, a single from Mastan plated Ochoa and pinch runner Jocelyn Solorzano [St. Paul High]. Moments later, Ochoa was a pinch runner for Mastan and scored on an error to make it 3-0.

That would be it for the Punishers who watched the Batbusters score twice in the top of the second inning, once in the third and four times in the fourth. Meanwhile, the Punishers would get two more hits the remainder of the game.
After a game break, the Punishers collected half a dozen hits in the 4-0 win. Again, they scored in the bottom of the first as Giselle Peralta [El Monte High] was walked, advanced on a base hit from catcher Autumn Herbig [Kennedy High] and stole a pair of bases. Later in the frame, a single from Yniguez brought home Ochoa, who was running for Mastan.

Ochoa led off the third with a base hit and eventually scored when Yniguez doubled to the right field gap. The final run came in the next inning when third baseman Haley Westfal [La Habra High] smacked a one-out home run. Yniguez and Peralta combined on a five-hitter, striking out four and walking one.

The final game of the day was one the Punishers would rather not remember as they were blasted by the (Eastvale) Corona Angels-Carter 13-1. The lone tally for the Punishers came in the bottom of the first when Ochoa was walked and scored on a Yniguez double. The only other hit the Punishers would get came in fifth inning, a two-out single from outfielder Bryanna Solache [Bellflower High].

This past Sunday, the Punishers were involved in a slugfest with the (Lake Elsinore) Strike Force-Jensen, coming up short 8-5. The Strike Force scored three runs in the top of the second and one more in the third before the Punishers made it a 4-3 contest in their half of the third. Westfal led off with a home run and infielder Keili Bailey reached on an error. Morgan would replace her as a pinch runner and scored on a wild pitch. Later in the inning and with two outs, Herbig was safe on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored on a Mastan single.

The Strike Force added four runs in the fourth before the Punishers got to within three runs in the fifth when Morgan and catcher Sophia Artizu [St. Paul High] singled. Morgan would come home on a wild pitch and Ochoa, running for Artizu, added the final tally on Bailey’s double.

“We just had the girls pump [each other] up and try to get their energy up,” Amaya said. “Once that happens, then our girls keep on hitting. They go and they focus on just hitting the ball. Base hits; try not to get a home run.

“I believe if the girls are just not looking for a perfect pitch, they’re just looking for something hittable,” Amaya later said. “If they look for a perfect pitch, it never comes. It comes once in every 12 pitches. But if they wait for something they can make contact with, and hit to the right side, we definitely would have wanted it.”

Next up for the Punishers will be the PGF Southern California Qualifier, which begins today at Yorba Linda Park in Anaheim. Up for grabs at this location are two berths in the Premier Division and one Platinum Division berth in next month’s PGF National Championships. The Punishers, who will face the (La Puente) Orange County Batbusters-Lara/Portesi this afternoon, are one of 19 16-Under teams at this location. Another 19 teams will compete at Peralta Park in Anaheim for the same number of berths. The PGF National Championships will take place July 24-31.

“Just go ahead and try to get connected with the ball, and pass the bat,” Amaya will be telling his team during practices leading up to the So Cal Qualifier. “With one hit, it’s contagious and it keeps on going and going.”

The Artesia Punishers 18-Gold team, which will be going to the PGF National Championships, were also in the Zoom into June Tournament and went 0-4-1 with games played at Big League Dreams in Riverside as well as Orange Terrace Park. This was the first major event the Punishers had played in to begin the late spring/early summer season.

“As the weekend went along, we started to perform a little better,” said Punishers head coach Joe Fletcher. “We added in five new players this weekend. So, they were kind of dropped into the action. It took us a game and a half, or so, for us to kind of gel or start to pick up some consistencies of a team. As the weekend went on, we were more competitive and performed a lot better.”

The Punishers lost to the [Roseville] Power Fastpitch 9-4 last Friday as Kassandra Martinez [San Dimas High, Mt. San Antonio College) went two for three while six other players all had one hit. Last Saturday, the Punishers rallied from a three-run deficit to tie the Clovis Rockets 4-4.

The game started with first baseman Bailey Jacobsen [Cypress High] walking on four straight pitches and coming home on a sacrifice fly from third baseman Mei Lopez [Whittier Christian High]. Down 4-1 after two innings, the Punishers bounced back in the third and began with a one-out double from outfielder Jessica Lopez [Los Osos High] and pitcher Anissa Vital [Mary Star of the Sea High] being hit. Pinch runner Jazmine Macias [La Mirada High] would replace Vital and with two outs, shortstop Miriam Estrada [Artesia High] singled home Lopez. That would be followed by a two-run single from Lopez.

“We talked to them about not allowing teams to make a move or take action and you not respond,” Fletcher said of the game. “They were able to pick it up and be a little more disciplined with their batting and a little more in tune with what we’re trying to do.”

Following the game, the Punishers fell to the [Beaumont] Minors Gold 8-5. This past Sunday, the tournament wrapped up with the Punishers losing to the [Chino Hills] California Bombers-Cordero 5-4 and the [Torrance] Ohana Tigers-Sanchez/Younger 9-6.

From now until the PGF National Championships, the Punishers will be playing in friendlies and in the Surf City Tourneys Summer Showcase July 9-11.

“You have to shake the rust off the team,” Fletcher said. “You have to shake the rust off, even myself, getting back into the flow of the game and dealing with the [umpires], the lineups and making sure everything is moving along smoothly.”