Amanda Johnston didn’t wait to hear the clang of a softball banging off the top of the scoreboard.
She could have, but that’s a different story.
Instead, the San Luis Obispo High junior ran out to the plate to help mob freshman teammate Karina Smythe, the culprit of what turned out to be a game-winning three-run home run off Paso Robles ace Michelle Moses in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Johnston, pitching her first game in nearly a year, held the Bearcats scoreless in the seventh and earned a 3-2 win less than a month after undergoing ear surgery that was expected to end her season.
The procedure corrected an inner-ear condition that threatened to crush her eardrum or even possibly cause a tumor.
The surgery was a success —and had Johnston, the Tigers’ best hitter, back on the field in days instead of months — but why wait to hear a ball damage school property when you can run in a screaming mob of other teenage girls?
“I definitely knew it was out of here,” Johnston said. “I just ran to the plate. I didn’t even look.”
The loss knocked Paso Robles (14-9-1, 5-3 PAC 7) out of a first-place tie in league just one day after the Bearcats had ascended there with a win over Atascadero. San Luis Obispo (12-10, 5-3) kept pace in a second-place tie with the win.
Smythe’s home run was the first of her high school career. It also was the first regularseason home run hit in the six-year history of the Tigers’ home field, said eighth-year San Luis Obispo coach Mike Lee, who notched his 102nd career victory.
And it was the first home run given up this season by Moses, a hard-throwing pitcher who’s being recruited by Fresno State, a perennial Top 25 collegiate team.
“I’ll give it to her,” Moses said. “She raked it. I think that was the hardest hit ball that’s ever been hit off me.”
To that point, Moses had been dominant. Carrying a 1.00 ERA and a Central Coast leading 167 strikeouts into the game, she allowed just one baserunner in the first five innings and struck out eight.
Moses registered at least two strikes against 11 of the first 15 batters she faced. Smythe struck out on three pitches against Moses in her first at-bat.
“She’s a really good pitcher,” Smythe said, “and she has kind of a legacy with all the schools. There’s a different feeling knowing you’re going to go up against her.”
Coaches and opponents have described Moses as intimidating, and she was living up to her billing until that sixth inning.
Danielle Erdman singled with one out, and Alyssa Keehn doubled to put runners on second and third. Smyth rode the wave of momentum and hit the home run on a 1-0 count.
Johnston, who gave up two runs in a first-inning rally, pitched in and out of trouble throughout the game, but put up six straight zeros, allowing just four total hits and striking out five.
She made the start in place of Tigers ace Ashley Valine, who’s out with a hand injury.
Coming off a 13-0 loss to Righetti on Monday with its best pitcher out indefinitely, San Luis Obispo refused to give up — even facing a 2-0 deficit against a dominating pitcher.
“They got roughed up (Monday),” Paso Robles coach Bill Tidwell said. “It would have been real easy for them to go in the tank, but that didn’t happen.”
Arroyo Grande 6, Nipomo 3
The Eagles (13-6, 6-2) came from behind to become the outright leaders in the PAC 7.
Chelsie Rodriguez hit a triple in the fifth inning, came in on a score-tying two-run home run by Krissy Mackiewiez, and Arroyo Grande won with a three-run rally in the top of the sixth.
With three runs in the bottom of the fourth, Nipomo had taken a 3-1 lead.
Titans pitcher Sami Willoughby struck out seven in six innings. Rodriguez struck out 10 and pitched a complete game.
Morro Bay 12, Santa Ynez 0
The Pirates exploded offensively for 12 runs on 14 hits, four of which came from Lauren Hope, who was 4 for 4. Hope also scored two runs as Morro Bay dispatched Santa Ynez in five innings in a Los Padres League game.
Cori Gacad and Claire Hoose each went 2 for 4 for the Pirates (15-7, 5-2). Emily Dover pitched all five, allowing just three hits and striking out 10.
Tribune staff contributed to this report.