When Courtney Cuzick contemplated the outlook for her sophomore year, she may have underestimated herself.
“At the beginning of the season, I set a goal to get above 200 strikeouts,” said Cuzick, a sophomore pitcher for the Nipomo High softball team. “And I’ve passed that up, so I’m just trying to get a good mark at the end of the season to try to beat next year.”
That will be quite a high number.
Cuzick collected 14 more strikeouts while tossing a one-hitter with three walks Tuesday during a 9-0 home win over Lompoc that kept the Titans (15-8, 8-2) in first place in the Los Padres League standings.
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“We know that Courtney’s going to give us an opportunity to win every single game,” Nipomo coach Matt Paradis said. “Courtney has shown time and again that this is the level that she plays at, and she definitely kind of rallies the girls around her when she’s on.
“It creates this sense in the girls that they need to be on, and it really brings the team together. We’re really starting to jell at the right time of the year.”
The performance, which lowered her ERA to 0.73 (in 144 1⁄3 innings), brought her season total to 248 strikeouts, which ranks No. 6 in the state, according to MaxPreps.com, and places No. 1 in the Southern Section, which includes more than 580 schools.
Playing in the PAC 7 last year as a freshman, Cuzick, who also plays travel ball in the summer for the San Jose Sting, finished with 128 strikeouts and a 1.41 ERA in 99 1⁄3 innings.
In an attempt to aid hitters, a national ruling moved the circle back from 40 feet to 43 feet prior to the start of this year, but the latter distance was already used at the club level, thus eliminating any adjustment difficulties for those like Cuzick who’d already experienced it.
“There’s no question that we saw the ability in Courtney, that we saw the potential,” Paradis said. “She has all the tools and has the work ethic.”
The Titans, who were in the others-receiving-votes category in this week’s Division 5 top-10 rankings, will host Santa Ynez at 4 p.m. Friday before finishing their league schedule May 13 at Cabrillo.
Morro Bay came into the day in a close second in the LPL, at 10-13 overall and 6-2 in league play, with Santa Ynez (10-9, 5-3) also contending.If the Titans can keep complementing Cuzick with the type of offense they showed Tuesday, they may be tough to beat.
Tessa Underwood, a fourth-year starter, went 2 for 4 with four RBI, Ashley Ruiz was 2 for 4 with a triple and three RBI, Brittany Cuzick drove in one run, and Dana Leyva singled in all three of her at-bats.
“The girls right now are playing well, and they’re playing with confidence,” Paradis said. “The fact that each girl is contributing is a really important piece to the puzzle. It allows everyone to identify that this is a team — that yes, Courtney’s going to go out and dominate teams, but the fact is there are still other facets to the game.
“Everyone’s playing off one another, so I’m really pleased with the way that our offense is putting up runs,” he added.
Before Courtney Cuzick considers setting her strikeout sights even higher next year, for now she just wants to contribute to the legacy of a league title, which would be a milestone in the school’s young history.
“We’ve never had a year like this before, so it’s just awesome, and everyone’s really excited about it,” Cuzick said. “We just have to keep improving and keep on staying consistent.”