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CIF-SS Div. 6 SOFTBALL PLAYOFFS – Artesia’s offense takes care of first inning, Torres’ pitching handles the rest in wild card victory

May 3, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Artesia High head coach Ed Blanck will surely take his team’s 4-0 victory over Harvard-Westlake High this past Tuesday, but he was in no mood to celebrate. The Pioneers scored all their runs in the bottom of the first inning, then had to hang on as the Wolverines threatened and threatened and had the tying run stand in the on-deck circle in the seventh.

But as she had done throughout the game, junior pitcher Maya Torres got out of one last jam, catching a pop-up from Nathalie Paniagua for the second out, then watch sophomore first baseman Rebecca Gooden catch the last out of the game, leaving two runners in scoring position.

“That’s what my little talk was to them right now,” said Blanck of his team’s performance. “I [asked], ‘why were you happy with only four runs’? We need to attack the ball. There were so many pop-ups after [the first inning]. That actually sums up my season…pop-ups.”

Sophomore center fielder Alea Medina was hit by a pitch on a full count to begin the bottom of the first before junior shortstop Irma Gonzalez laid down a beautiful bunt in front of home plate. But an errant throw put runners on the corners and after a stolen base, junior third baseman Vanessa Soto reached on an error with Medina and Gonzalez scoring. A single from junior second baseman Allisiah Valenzuela plated Soto and after senior Silvanna Rodriguez reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases, junior left fielder Jazlynn Jara’s first-pitch single to center allowed Torres to score the last run of the game,

Over the next five innings, the Pioneers, ranked fifth in the division, would have five runners reach base off Elysia Phillips. Three of them collected hits, but two would be stranded at third base and two more would be left at second base. With the offense struggling, Torres took over in the circle and kept the third place representatives from the Angelus League at bay.

Ainsley Nutting and Samantha Ahn would each reach on errors with two outs in the first and second innings before Torres avoided further harm. After a perfect third, Nutting singled to begin the fourth, stole second and went to third on a one-out groundout. Then after a perfect fifth, Torres walked Dylan Fischer, who would steal second to open the sixth. A fielder’s choice would put Emma Tseng at first, but Fischer would be out trying to advance to third and Nutting grounded into a double play to end the threat.

“Maya did her job [in the circle],” said Blanck. “The pitches that she was supposed to hit, she hit. And even when they got hits, she got a little relaxed on her spins and that’s why that one ball went deep.”

He was talking about Natalie Antin’s double that went to the left field fence to lead off the seventh inning. After a groundout, Antin went to third on a base hit from Maiya Holly before Torrs got the next two outs to end the contest.

Artesia, the third place team in the 605 League for the third straight season, improved to 13-7 and advanced to the second round for the first time since 1992 when they shutout La Serna High and Arlington High in the 3-A Division wild card and first round respectively by 2-0 scores before falling to South Hills High by that same score. Artesia was scheduled to visit Lennox Academy on May 4.

“Well, that’s news to me,” said Blanck when he found out about the program’s second round drought. “That’s awesome, and my little talk was about making it to the second round. We have to get there and prove ourselves. We are a young team, still. But next year, I’ll have all seniors and they’re just showing what they can do right now. I’m really proud of them and for the school, actually. I think we can go a little bit farther.”