A relative lack of experience didn’t mean much of anything to the Atascadero High softball team this year.
With just three seniors on their roster, the Greyhounds won the PAC 7 championship in a runaway and finished the regular season ranked No. 7 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 coaches poll. When they took the field in the first round of the divisional playoffs Thursday, only one senior was in their starting lineup.
While their regular-season accomplishments might’ve come slightly ahead of schedule, though, a deeper postseason run will have to wait, as the Greyhounds (23-6) lost 2-1 to visiting Dana Hills (15-11), an at-large team from the South Coast League.
“Certainly, I didn’t expect to be done so early,” Atascadero coach Kara Ferrell said of the sudden exit.
“Winning league and doing so well — we haven’t done that in a while,” Ferrell said.
“I’m still proud of them. They deserve it, and they worked hard all season and offseason. That’s what we told them (after the game) — ‘You have nothing to hang your heads about. You had a killer season.’ ”
Dolphins starter Kelsi Ott picked up the complete-game win, collecting 10 strikeouts against just one walk.
“She was very effective, and that’s what we count on her to do,” Dana Hills coach Mitch La Riva said of Ott. “She’s got a great down movement (on her pitches), and you could see they missed her drop ball a lot, but to (Atascadero’s) credit, late in the game, they started getting pieces of it.”
Ott carried a one-hitter into the seventh inning, scattering three hits for the game.
“Lately we’ve been facing a lot of rise-ball pitchers, and she was a drop-ball pitcher,” Ferrell said. “But our girls are capable of hitting (drops); we just didn’t make the adjustments like we needed to. We needed to be more aggressive at the plate. I think we watched a lot of good pitches go by.”
Greyhounds starter Jill Johnson also went the distance, yielding nine hits. She struck out one batter and didn’t walk any.
“Our defense was stellar, and it’s been pretty solid all year long,” Ferrell said. “Jill was fabulous as always.”
Dana Hills took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth when Jenna Jorgenson blasted a solo home run to right field, but Atascadero was able to get out of the inning by turning a bases-loaded double play soon afterward. The Dolphins tacked on another run in the top of the sixth on a Kylie Ordos single that drove in Jorgenson.
Atascadero found life at the plate in the bottom of the seventh, cutting the lead to 2-1 on a no-out double by senior catcher Ashley Dooley that scored Ashlee Reusche. Shortly thereafter, though, the Dolphins came up with a double play at the plate to bring the game — and the Greyhounds’ season — to a dramatic closure.
“(Ott) did an excellent job maintaining her composure when it got tight,” La Riva said.
Jorgenson finished 2 for 3 with two runs scored, while teammate Kaylee Uddberg was also 2 for 3, including a double.
“We’re disappointed we’re done so early, but we’re not disappointed about the season overall,” Ferrell said.
Johnson (16-5), a junior, was second in the PAC 7 this season with a 1.01 ERA.
Also among those able to return for the Greyhounds next year will be senior-to-be leadoff hitter Brigit Godfrey, whose .409 batting average was second in the league, and junior-to-be slugger Jessie Hufstetler, whose 34 RBI entering Thursday ranked in the top 30 of the Southern Section.
“This is one of the most talented groups of girls we’ve had in a long time come through Atascadero High School,” Ferrell said. “And they’re still talented. We have almost all of our starters coming back next year, and I still think that next year, they’re just as capable of going beyond what we just got done playing.”