Jill Compton is modest when talking about the resurgence the Arroyo Grande High softball team enjoyed this past season.
“We got the key hits when we needed them,” she said.
None of them would’ve mattered without her presence, though.
Compton, The Tribune’s San Luis Obispo County Softball Player of the Year, pitched every inning in each of the Eagles’ final six PAC 7 games. She won every time, leading the program to its first outright league championship in 11 years.
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Including a 1-0 nonleague win over Nipomo and a 3-0 victory against South Torrance in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs, Compton’s late-season stretch spanned eight straight complete-game wins.
During the streak, the junior right-hander sported an ERA of 0.36, and put together a no-hitter (in a 1-0 win over San Luis Obispo) and a perfect game (in the postseason opener).
Her success has come in a contemporary era that San Luis Obispo coach Mike Lee deemed the best for pitching across-the-board in the area that he has seen in his 11 years with the Tigers.
“Every time that she’s pitching, Arroyo Grande has an opportunity to win,” Lee said. “She’s a complete-shutdown type of pitcher.”
Compton, already named the PAC 7’s MVP, finished the season with a league-leading 220 strikeouts and a 1.29 ERA in 1292⁄3 innings of work. She also batted .314 with a team-best 19 runs scored.
Compton was named to ESPN RISE’s all-state underclassman second team earlier this week and was also recently selected to the all-Southern Section Division 3 first team.
It was the second year in a row that Compton put up big numbers. As a sophomore, she racked up 269 strikeouts with a 0.95 ERA in 1402⁄3 innings. Her teammates struggled to provide much run support, though, as the Eagles lost five one-run games in league play alone, missing the playoffs.
The troubling trend of narrow defeats in low-scoring games was repeating itself by the midway point of this season, as Arroyo Grande stood at 2-4 through the first half of its league schedule.
“We regrouped and talked about what we were lacking,” Eagles coach Kristin Ciecek said. “We knew we had the talent; it was just a matter of figuring out how to pull out those close games.”
Practices became more focused.
“That was our main goal, to win league,” Compton said. “We bonded more this year and came together.“We just were working harder,” she added. “We picked up our intensity.”
Compton peaked at the right time, honing her curve and screw pitches to complement her trademark rise ball, eventually overpowering the toughest level of competition routinely faced along the Central Coast.
Her performance overshadowed any difficulties that may have arisen early on from adjusting to the circle being moved back from 40 feet to 43 feet, after the National Federation of State High School Associations mandated the switch before the start of this season.
“Mentally, I just took it more one-pitch-at-a-time,” Compton said. “That slowed the game down, and that’s what helped me.”
Just as Compton was hitting her stride, Arroyo Grande broke through with the much-needed timely hitting it had been looking for, prevailing in three one-run games amidst a crucial span of 18 days.
The Eagles (17-10, 8-4) didn’t lose again in PAC 7 play, and the 14-strikeout perfect game that followed immediately afterward was Compton’s finest hour.
“She was ready,” Ciecek said. “She was on fire that day.”
Even in the Eagles’ season-ending loss, a 4-1 second-round defeat at the hands of Warren of Downey, Compton remained strong, scattering three hits to the Bears, who at the time were 24-3 and looking to make it back to the divisional championship game for the second year in a row.
Compton is currently playing travel ball for the So Cal Pumas, a summer club from Newbury Park. They’ve played in a variety of tournaments across the country on every weekend except one since Memorial Day.
“I’ve become a way better player,” Compton said of the experience.
Prior to the start of this season, Compton gave a nonbinding, early verbal commitment to Fresno State, Pumas coach Gary Keohohou said. Consequently, two years from now, she’ll have a chance to follow in the footsteps of one of her childhood idols, former Paso Robles star Michelle Moses.
Moses, the county player of the year as a senior pitcher and home run-hitter for the Bearcats in 2008, has continued her all-around brilliance at Fresno State, earning third-team All-America honors from Easton last month. The Bulldogs finished 35-19 this spring, qualifying for the regional round of the NCAA Tournament.
When Compton went on an unofficial visit to the school last year, she “loved the atmosphere,” she said.
Bulldog Diamond is renowned as one of the most impressive facilities in the country, and the program drew an average crowd of 1,351 per home game this season. The school has led the nation in attendance 13 times in the past two decades.
“The whole town’s about Fresno State,” Compton explained. “I’ve been to a couple of their games, and it’s just so awesome to see.”
Keohohou has stated that he believes Compton can develop into an All-American down the line.
For now, though, Ciecek and the rest of the Eagles are just happy to have Compton around for one more year.
“She was willing to do whatever it took to win,” Ciecek said, calling Compton one of the most mentally tough players she has coached. “She was a team leader this year, and her teammates fed off of her energy and competitiveness. Jill’s a fighter. She’s a lot of fun to coach.”
ALL-COUNTY SOFTBALL TEAMPLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jill Compton, Arroyo Grande, P, Jr.
INF — Kasie Craig, Arroyo Grande (Sr.)P — Courtney Cuzick, Nipomo (So.)CF — Kylie Gacad, Morro Bay (Jr.)2B — Tia Gacad, Morro Bay (Jr.)1B — Jennifer Hernandez, Paso Robles (Sr.)INF/C — Jessie Hufstetler, Atascadero (Jr.)P — Jill Johnson, Atascadero (Sr.)C — Allison Lamb, Morro Bay (So.)3B — Ashlee Reusche, Atascadero (Jr.)P — Andrea Reynolds, San Luis Obispo (So.)SS — Kellie Reynolds, Paso Robles (Jr.)SS — Jasmine Singh, Morro Bay (Jr.)UTIL — Tessa Underwood, Nipomo (Sr.)P — Jenna Wookey, Paso Robles (So.)
UTIL — Ashanti Alba, Templeton (So.)2B — Erica Chandler, San Luis Obispo (So.)INF — Megan Clark, Paso Robles (So.)3B — Brandi Crabtree, San Luis Obispo (Jr.)OF — Laura Gorman, Atascadero (Jr.)C — Ari Hulsizer, Nipomo (Sr.)OF — Jordan Martinez, Morro Bay (Jr.)3B — Carly McCall, Paso Robles (So.)C — Samantha Rivas, San Luis Obispo (Jr.)INF — Jordan Robinson, Arroyo Grande (So.)UTIL — Ashley Ruiz, Nipomo (Fr.)P — Marissa Tabares, Morro Bay (Fr.)3B — Moriah Vargas, Arroyo Grande (Sr.)OF — Alexa Wetmore, Arroyo Grande (Jr.)
Arroyo Grande — Sydney Gouveia (P, Jr.)Atascadero — Brigit Godfrey (2B, Sr.)Coastal Christian — Sevelyn Van Ronk (SS, Jr.)Mission Prep — Sadie Casacca (SS, Jr.), Shannon Dudley (Util., Jr.), Jenna Dunbar (3B, Jr.)Morro Bay — Caitlyn Cowardin (Util., So.), Jessica Wagner (P, Sr.)Nipomo — Brittany Cuzick (1B, Sr.), Dana Leyva (OF, Sr.)North County Christian — Cheyenne Ricks (Util., Jr.)Paso Robles — Amanda Searcy (OF, Sr.), Arianna Melendez (Util., Sr.)Templeton — Danita Hinton (P, Sr.)