Through the early portion of this PAC 7 softball season, it was hard to argue which team in the league had been the most consistently impressive.
By the same token, it had become fairly obvious which of the league’s players had gotten off to the most notable individual start.
Both met with first place in the PAC 7 on the line on a windy Wednesday afternoon at Arroyo Grande High as Atascadero — ranked No. 7 in the latest CIF-Southern Section Division 2 poll — posted all of its runs in the top of the seventh inning of a 5-2 win over the Eagles.
The victory came against Arroyo Grande sophomore sensation Jill Compton, who entered the game seventh in the state in strikeouts, according to MaxPreps.com.
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“I really wanted this game,” Greyhounds junior ace Jill Johnson said. “I’ve been waiting for this game for a long time. I kind of have my certain games I really want to win, and this was one of them.”
Compton came in with 210 strikeouts, already owning a perfect game, a no-hitter and a school-record 26-strikeout performance this season. She was perfect after five innings Wednesday until Johnson broke through with a sixth-inning single.
Atascadero (18-4, 6-0) then proceeded to break the game open in the seventh, beginning with a Marissa McClain single that drove in Melissa Damerow to cut the lead to 2-1.
Johnson then smacked a two-run double that scored Jessie Hufstetler and Erin Pennington for a 3-2 lead before Brigit Godfrey had a two-run single to score Summer Best and Laura Gorman and complete the scoring.
“We’ll take the win, but it’s definitely not how we wanted to get the win,” Atascadero coach Kara Ferrell said of having to rally after being shut out through six. “It’s a credit to the talent on our team to come out with this kind of inning and score five runs (at once). The first six innings weren’t what we practice every day for.”
Johnson finished a team-best 2 for 3 with a double and two RBI.
The Eagles went up 1-0 in the first inning on a Jordan Robinson double that scored Kasie Craig, and then took a 2-0 advantage on a fourth-inning Jesyca Danylo sacrifice fly that scored Robinson.
Robinson was a game-best 3 for 3 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. Alexa Wetmore added a double for Arroyo Grande (13-7, 4-2).
“We played great through six innings,” Arroyo Grande coach Kristin Ciecek said. “We just let them in and they took advantage of it.
“I basically just told the girls (after the game) we’re a great team — we’ve just got to learn to shut (opponents) down in the seventh.”
Atascadero entered with six players batting better than .375.
“Jill was pitching great,” Ciecek said. “(Atascadero)’s a great hitting team.
“We’re right there. It still remains our goal to take league.”
Compton struck out 14 batters, walked none and scattered five hits in the complete-game loss.
Atascadero already has a 1-0 win to its credit over Righetti, last year’s league champion. In that game, Johnson pitched all 15 innings, striking out 18.
“They have that fight-’til-the-end kind of attitude,” Ferrell said of her players. “They’re resilient and persevere, and good teams have to be able to do that.”
Johnson, an all-league first-team honoree as a sophomore, also scattered five hits, struck out one batter and walked another in her complete-game win. She maintained a flawless ERA through the first two weeks of the season, entering Wednesday with a 0.51 ERA through 96 innings.
“The team is very confident,” Johnson said of being alone in first place. “We respect our opponents a lot, and we know that whatever game we’re going into, the opposing team is going to give us their best, so we’re always prepared for the hardest of games.”