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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Artesia softball has its way against Whitney in 605 League opener

March 22, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @Loren Kopff on Twitter

Coming off last season’s 1-14 performance, the Whitney High softball team won four its first five games prior to its 605 League opener at Artesia High last Thursday. To some, a 4-1 start isn’t much to talk about, especially when you have outscored your fellow CIF-Southern Section Division 6 and 7 opponents 79-16.

But Artesia head coach El Blacnk was concerned going in about what Whitney might look like against his team. As it turned out, it was Artesia who put on a pounding in a 12-1 rout that saw the Pioneers rough up sophomore pitcher Monica Manni for 13 hits.

“Yes, yes, most definitely,” said a concerned Blanck. “I even talked to [Whitney head coach] Stephanie [Machado] and said, ‘you’re doing an awesome job’. I was really impressed, and actually a little worried coming into the game. I didn’t know what to expect.”

Artesia scored three times in the bottom of the first inning, four more in the second, three in the third and twice in the fourth inning. Including a pair of make-up games last Saturday in the Santa Fe Tournament, it marked the third time this season Artesia had scored at least 10 runs and the fourth time it had allowed just one run. The 13 hits marked a season high and now, the Pioneers are sitting at 7-3 overall.

“Yes, finally,” exhaled Blanck of his team’s offensive burst. “[In] our preseason, our hitting wasn’t there, and then today, we concentrated on just hitting on the ground or line drives; not trying to hit home runs.”

Meanwhile, Machado admitted she was surprised of the score despite the fact that the Wildcats have already doubled their win production of the last three seasons combined.

“I think a little bit,” said Machado. “I think in general, they were getting in their own heads, with the errors we were making and the weather…we haven’t been able to hit cages or anything like that. So, I think they were having trouble hitting off [junior pitcher Allisiah Valenzuela], too. But to me, the fielding is far from what we’re capable of. Hopefully it’s a wake-up call.

“Many times what happens at a school like Whitney is every time the new season starts, they kind of regress because not everybody plays travel ball,” she later said. “I felt like when we started up, it wasn’t that much of a slide down. So, it was pretty nice. In practice, their fielding is clean; they’re catching balls they shouldn’t be. It’s really awesome. I think the 4-1 start is more representative of who we are than today.”

Artesia sent nine batters to the plate in each of the first two innings with sophomore center fielder Alea Medina getting a triple and a single while scoring twice and junior second baseman Maya Torres also getting a pair of hits and scoring twice. Junior catcher Arianna Franco scored twice and reached on an error in the first before collecting a single in the second.

In the third inning, Valenzuela capped off her game with a single to finish three for three with four runs driven in. Medina and Torres ended up with three hits each and Medina scored all four times she was up to the plate. In addition, the top six in the Artesia lineup combined to go 13 for 22 with all 12 runs scored and 10 RBI.

“One thing we were really trying to stress with them, because they are such good hitters, was not getting anything down the middle; keeping it inside-outside,” said Machado of Manni’s pitching. “I think what didn’t help is if they got a good hit, and we [didn’t make a catch] we could have caught traditionally, I think those were getting onto Monica, possibly. That’s what was weighing on her more so. I thought her pitching was pretty on today. But I think the mental mistakes from the rest of the team just really hurt her confidence.”

Meanwhile, Valenzuela was enjoying her second straight strong performance, giving up a hit, striking out eight and walking three through the first four innings. Twice, the Wildcats had a runner get to third and both times, Valenzuela ended the inning with a strikeout. The lone run came in the fifth when freshman catcher Olachi Anyama reached on an infield single, stole second and third and came home on an error.

“I’m working with her,” said Blanck. “She’s a junior, but she’s starting to mature and listen to me pitching-wise. A lot of other teams, first-pitch strike is not going to work. So, I want her to get ahead, but not ‘right down the middle get ahead’. And I need her to use her off speed a little bit more. She’s learning; she’s getting in the process. She’s a project for me. I have all the faith in her.”

Just as Whitney has improved in Machado’s second season as head coach, Blanck is hoping to keep Artesia’s progress going in his third season. Blanck replaced former head coach Dayna Feenstra prior to the 2021 after she had taken the program to two playoff trips and in his first two seasons, Blanck has gone a combined 16-19 with a pair of third place finished in league and a pair of first round losses in the playoffs.

“A lot of work and a lot of trust in their coach,” said Blanck. “Finally, they started listening [and it’s] hard work. When we get to practice…they’re really maturing. Now, it’s only the first [league] game and I need them to mature more as a team. I need them to be there.”

Artesia is scheduled to visit Oxford Academy on Friday before hosting Cerritos High on Tuesday in the first of a home and home series with the reigning league champions. Whitney, which was slated to host Oxford Academy this past Tuesday, is scheduled to host Cerritos on Friday and go to John Glenn High on Tuesday in the front end of a home and home series. The Wildcats also had a make-up game at Buena Park High on Mar. 23. This season figures to be a much tighter league race as all six teams in the circuit has a combined 37-9 record entering this past Monday.

“I’m really excited to play the other teams because Pioneer, John Glenn and Oxford [are] killing people left and right,” said Blanck. “Everybody is getting close and close and I can’t wait to see the end of the year outcome.”

“I do think we are way better than we were last year,” said Machado. “I think we will have competitive games against more people in the 605 League. So yeah, I am hoping [the race] is more closer than it was last year.”

In other softball action, Cerritos made up a rained out game from last month at Redondo High and was edged 8-7 to drop to 5-2 overall. The Dons were scheduled to host Pioneer High last Thursday and Glenn this past Tuesday but will hope to get their games with Artesia and Whitney in.

Gahr (7-4-1, 1-0 in the Gateway League) was slated to visit La Mirada High on Mar. 23 and will make-up a rained out game against Mayfair High on Monday before entertaining Downey High on Tuesday and facing Great Oak High on Wednesday in the opener of the Michelle Carew Classic.

Glenn, ranked eighth in Division 6 with an overall record of 6-0-1, including a league victory over Oxford Academy, has scored 77 runs while allowing just eight. The Eagles visited Pioneer on Mar. 23 and will go to Montebello High on Thursday.

La Mirada (6-5) had games at Cypress High and Warren rained out but after facing Gahr on Mar. 23, will face Chino High on Saturday and go to Mayfair on Tuesday while Norwalk High split a pair of games in the Santa Fe Tournament last Saturday, edging Downey 7-6 before falling to San Dimas High 3-2. At 6-5 overall, the Lancers were slated to visit Paramount on Mar. 23 in the Mid-Cities League opener, go to Bellflower High on Tuesday and host Dominguez on Thursday.

Valley Christian High, which had not played in two weeks, fell to Mayfair 12-4 last Friday to even its record at 2-2. The Defenders went to Maranatha High on Mar. 23 and will host the Minutemen on Monday in a make-up from this past Tuesday’s rained out encounter.


Artesia (2-6) is scheduled to host Maywood CES out of the CIF-Los Angeles City Section on Friday and go to Buena Park on Saturday before hosting Cerritos on Tuesday and making up a rained out game from this past Wednesday against St. Anthony High on Wednesday.

Glenn (2-3) will visit Oxford Academy on Friday and make up a rained out game against Firebaugh High on Monday while La Mirada, just on the outskirts of the Division 1 top 10, improved to 8-2 following a 9-4 win over Douglas High out of Nevada in the first round of the Lions Tournament. The Matadores will face El Modena High on Saturday in the final game of the Loara Tournament.

Norwalk has been on fire all season and is in complete control of the Mid-Cities League. The Lancers shutout Paramount High 3-0 this past Monday to improve to 10-2 overall and undefeated in six league games. Norwalk is ranked 10th in Division 6 and has shutouts in its last three games, four out of its last five and five out of its last seven. The Lancers were scheduled to host Paramount this past Wednesday and will welcome Dominguez High on Friday, face La Salle on Saturday and go to Dominguez on Wednesday.