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605 LEAGUE SOFTBALL – Torres pitches another gem as Artesia moves one step closer to locking down second place

April 17, 2024

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on X

Artesia High softball head coach Ed Blanck was not going to put any more pressure on his team or mention the likelihood of the Pioneers finishing in second place in the 605 League. The Pioneers had their sights set on a rare league title, but those dreams were dashed on Mar. 28 following a 13-3 loss to Cerritos High and to this day, the players are still upset about that.

So, the consolation prize is that second place finish and behind a dominating performance from senior pitcher Maya Torres and a three-hit outing from senior shortstop Irma Gonzalez, Artesia barely broke a sweat against Pioneer High in a 10-0 win last Friday. The win put the black and red up two games on third place Pioneer with three left to play in the regular season.

“I knew that they could do this,” said Blanck of his team. “They didn’t know that they could do this. And in previous games, they kept trying to hit home runs. In this game, they were hitting line drives and base hits.

“We’re in a good spot, and I felt in the beginning of the season that we were going to be the number one team [in league],” he later said. “But they don’t believe it yet. So right now, second place is looking good, then it’s the CIF playoffs. That’s really what I’m [focusing] on.”

“It was very important for us to win,” said Gonzalez. “After [being swept by] Cerritos, it was very heartbreaking. All the girls were upset because we really wanted to win and everyone was telling us, ‘Oh, you’re the best team in the league; you guys should be beating them’ since we were beating everybody else. Then when it came to Cerritos, we all kind of got a little bit nervous and our hits were just coming too late.”

It didn’t take long for the Pioneers to flex their muscles as junior center fielder Alea Medina led off the bottom of the first inning with a triple down the left field line on the fourth pitch she saw. Two pitches later, Gonzalez doubled to the left field gap for the only run of the inning. Despite four pop-ups in the first three innings, Artesia continued to go after Pioneer’s Katlynn Gauthier.

She would hit senior third baseman Vanessa Soto on a 3-0 count to begin the second inning, then walked senior catcher Arianna Franco. After the two were sacrificed to third and second base respectively by senior designated player Jazmine Anguiano, freshman left fielder Paulina Nava was safe on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Medina followed with a fielder’s choice of her own and Gonzalez singled to bring in Franco, making it 3-0.

In the third inning, Gauthier walked Torres on a full count and one out later, Soto laced a line drive homerun over the left field fence. The scoring continued in the fourth inning as Nava singled to right field and Medina added another base hit to left field. Gonzalez then reached on an error with Nava scoring and moments later, a throwing error allowed Medina and Gonzalez to score the seventh and eighth runs.

Franco began the fifth with a single to the right field gap and Anguiano was safe on a fielder’s choice before Nava’s base hit to left field loaded the bases. After a line drive from Medina doubled up Nava, Gonzalez ended the game with a laser down the right field line to plate Franco and junior pinch runner Alessandra Russo.

“Irma’s position is number two,” said Blanck. “She can bunt and whatever after that…she has stepped up. I remember in the past she was scared when I put her in that spot. Right now, she’s starting to feel comfortable and believing in herself.” 

“It’s good batting behind Alea,” said Gonzalez. “She gives me a little bit of a confidence boost knowing that no matter where she’s at, she’s going to end up scoring. It helps me relax a little bit more knowing that if I get a good hit, Aleda is going to be the first run in.”

The hitting was just half the story of the game as Torres tossed her third shutout of the season, second against the Titans, and allowed just two hits. Alexis Rosales led off the top of the second inning with a single to center field, went to second on a sacrifice from April Gaxiola and advanced to third on a wild pitch. However, with two outs, a ground ball from Giselle Rodas into right field hit the lip where the grass meets the infield dirt, bounced up to junior right fielder Brendy Sarni whose throw to senior first baseman Melissa Mendoza barely beat Rodas.

In the next inning, a sharp ground ball from Jenna Vasquez was snared by junior second baseman Kaleyse Foster, who threw to Mendoza for the first out. The only other runner to reach off Torres was Jordan Ramirez, who’s one-out double in the fourth inning was wasted when Rosales flew out to left and Gaxiola struck out. Torres finished having thrown 51 pitches.

“Maya was…sometimes her drop was a rise, and her rise was a drop,” said Blanck. “So the pitches got a little mixed up. But what was awesome about Maya was she didn’t have any walks. Plus, we had good defense today.”

Artesia would improve to 11-7-1 overall, 6-2 in league following a 19-4 win at Oxford Academy this past Tuesday and will visit John Glenn High on Friday before ending the regular season against Whitney High on Wednesday.

“We were kind of just playing with each other from the heart, to be honest,” said Gonzalez. “We were playing together, and everything was good. Our hits were good, our defense was good; everyone was together cheering loud.

“We needed to focus on our next game, so we kind of threw the Cerritos game in the past,” she later added. “We really didn’t think about it; nobody talked about it, nobody mentioned it. We just kept playing our game. We knew we had to beat Pioneer, even though we knew it wasn’t for second place. We didn’t even know, but we just knew we had to beat the team that we were playing today and focus on the other games when they come.”