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PREMIER GIRLS FASTPITCH SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA QUALIFIER: Bats Go Silent For Artesia Punishers 16-Under Squad, Endure Another Two and Out Tournament

June 24, 2021


ANAHEIM-After winning one of five games in the Triple Crown Sports Zoom into June Tournament the previous weekend, the Artesia Punishers 16-Under travel softball team was looking to rebound in last weekend’s Premier Girls Fastpitch Southern California Qualifier. But just like the Zoom into June games, the Punishers found a hard time with their bats, and their own defense, and lost both games played in the double elimination tournament at Yorba Linda Park.

The Punishers were slammed by the (Anaheim) Orange County Batbusters-Lara/Portesi 10-0 last Friday afternoon, then were bounced out of the tournament by the (Moreno Valley) Athletics Mercado-Carroll 2K5 6-1 the next morning. This was the final chance the Punishers had to earn a berth in the PGF National Championships next month.

“To be honest, I don’t even think they were in it today,” said Artesia Punishers head coach Leo Amaya on the game against the Batbusters. “I have no…I have nothing to say about it. I’m stuck.”

In the top of the first inning, starting pitcher Mia Mastan (Peninsula High) walked Kiara Cisneros, who then stole second on the next pitch, to begin the game. Brielle Normandin would reach on the first of five errors, allowing Cisneros to score. The Punishers avoided further damage when Mastan struck out Casey Fazzini on three pitches, then got Willa Poplawski to fly out to center fielder Nathaly Ochoa (Bellflower High), who immediately fired the ball back to second baseman Autumn Herbig (Kennedy High) for an inning-ending double play.

Unfortunately, the Punishers couldn’t feed off the momentum as they wasted a one-out Herbig single in the bottom of the first, then yielded three unearned runs in the second inning, all with two outs. The fielding woes continued in the third when Liana Gonzalez was hit by a pitch, stole second, went to third on an error and made it 5-0 on a two-out base hit from Madison Estep.

“It was felt from the first inning all the way to the last inning,” Amaya said. “We were just making error after error after error. There’s no sugarcoating it or nothing, it was just straight from the first inning.”

Any chances of the Punishers possibly getting back in the game were crushed in the fifth when the Batbusters batted around and added five more runs to their tally on four hits, one walk and one hit batter. Meanwhile, Ashley Dean retired seven straight following the Herbig hit until Ochoa singled in the third. But she would get caught stealing. After that, Dean would walk Mastan with one out in the fourth and allow shortstop Anaiyah Yniguez (Bellflower High) to reach on a fielder’s choice.

Following the game, Amaya tried to give his team some encouraging words, even though the Punishers would have had to win four games last Saturday in the loser’s bracket and two games to garner a berth in the Platinum Division of the PGF National Championships, three to make it to the Premier Division.

“I just told them to attack this one inning at a time,” Amaya said. “One inning at a time is gold; just try to get on base. Like I said last [week], just pass the bat. This time it just wasn’t happening.”

Against the Athletics Mercado, the first seven batters were retired by Janessa Santos before right fielder Bryanna Solache (Bellflower High) and pitcher Giselle Peralta (El Monte High) each singled. But that that scoring threat was squandered and the Athletics would take advantage by scoring three times in the bottom of the second, then two more in the fourth and the last run in the fifth.

“Overall, in [the second game], the girls did really good, to be honest,” Amaya said. “They just made one error and they were catching the balls where we were hitting the ball and [they] were hitting the ball in the gaps where nobody was. It was actually a really good game; our girls did really good.”

The Punishers thought they had something going in the top of the fourth when Herbig reached and advanced to third on a one-out single from Mastan. But back to back strikeouts ended that opportunity. They avoided the shutout in the next inning when Solache led off with a walk and eventually scored when left fielder Madison Morgan was safe on a one-out error. The Punishers would be limited to two base hits and had seven base runners.

The next major tournament the team will participate in will be the USA Softball Tournament of Champions, which begins on July 8. The Punishers will be one of 42 teams in the 16-Under age group and will play a pair of pool play games on July 8, one on July 9 and two more on July 10. The single elimination playoffs will kick off on July 11 with the tournament ending on July 12. The Champions Cup is regarded as another major college showcase tournament.