Nipomo High’s Courtney Cuzick can make a softball dance when she’s pitching.
The senior right-hander who will play collegiately at Pennsylvania next year, threw a shutout Tuesday, striking out 14 batters and giving up only three hits in a 6-0 win at home against Arroyo Grande.
In the first game of the season for both squads — a nonleague matchup — Cuzick used a range of underhanded flings that ducked, slid, rose and bobbed at various speeds to keep the Eagles’ hitters guessing.
“My goal is just to keep the hitters off-balance,” Cuzick said. “I have about five different kinds of pitches. My arm felt really good today.”
The Titans scored four runs in the first two innings by finding the holes with slap singles and aggressiveness on the basepaths.
Third baseman Ashley Ruiz had two hits and two RBI for Nipomo, including the sharp grounder up the middle that scored the game’s first run in the opening frame. Titans right fielder Vanessa Davis, a freshman, also had two hits and drove in a run.
“For this being her first game, I thought Vanessa had a great start,” Nipomo coach Matt Paradis said. “As a team, I think we came out ready to play. We’ve been working hard. We return most of our starters, and I think we were prepared.”
The Titans struck in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead with a two-out, ground ball by Ruiz that scored Abby Trismen, who had a slap single over the Eagles shortstop to start the rally. Ruiz’s hit squeezed just under the glove of Arroyo Grande freshman starting pitcher Bailey Killough.
In the Nipomo half of the second inning, Destiny Fryckman led off with a sharp ground ball that ricocheted off the leg of the Eagles’ shortstop.
After a sharp line-drive single to right by Davis put runners on first and second, Selina Delfina blooped a single to left that led to a throwing error and both runners on base scored, making it 3-0 for the Titans.
In the third inning, Nipomo loaded the bases with one out but relief pitcher Rebekah Hernandez got out of the jam by striking out Delfina and Vences.
And in the bottom of the fifth, with the score 4-0, the Titans added two more insurance runs on groundout RBI by Davis and Anahi Vences.
The Eagles had some scoring chances but couldn’t capitalize.
In the first, they had the leadoff runner on second in Sabrina Fuentez, who started the game with a bunt single and stole second. But Cuzick got out of the jam with a scoreless inning.
In the top of the fifth, the Eagles got runners on second and third with no outs, and Cuzick struck out the side.
“I thought we had our chances today, but Courtney was just phenomenal,” Arroyo Grande first-year John Welch said. “She’s a very good pitcher. This is our first game. I think we’ll bounce back.”
Arroyo Grande third baseman Jordan Robinson made a spectacular play in the bottom of the sixth off a rocket from the bat of Cuzick.
Robinson caught the line drive backhanded, turned and doubled off Nipomo’s Gianna Abatti, who was on second, to end the inning.
Nipomo won the Los Padres League last year and advanced to the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 playoffs, finishing the season 19-10
The Eagles were 18-10 and third in the PAC 7 last year. Robinson said the Eagles’ main goal is to improve upon last year’s result.
“We want to be very competitive,” Robinson said. “Our goal is to win league. Hopefully, we can do better than last year. We just need to continue to work hard.”