The PAC 7 softball race is going to come down to the wire.
Arroyo Grande High, which started Friday in third place in the league standings, moved into second with a 4-2 win at first-place Paso Robles. Coupled with third-place St. Joseph’s 2-1 loss to San Luis Obispo, the game left three teams clustered atop the PAC 7 with either three or four losses.
The Bearcats (16-10, 7-3) will close out the regular season with games at St. Joseph (16-8, 6-4) on Tuesday and at Righetti on Thursday, while the Eagles (15-9, 7-4) have one more game left, at St. Joseph on Thursday.
“A lot could happen right now,” Arroyo Grande coach Kristin Ciecek said. “We’re all kind of in the mix.”
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Arroyo Grande pitcher Jill Compton had eight strikeouts and scattered three hits to go with three walks.
Compton, a junior, gave an early, nonbinding verbal commitment to Fresno State before this season. She came into the game 22nd in the state in strikeouts and was coming off a no-hitter in a 1-0 win over San Luis Obispo earlier this week.
Friday’s game was tied 1-1 heading into the top of the fifth inning before the Eagles broke through with a three-run rally.
“This is big,” Ciecek said. “We’re just really playing well as a team together right now, with all-out effort from everybody.”
Megan Knight opened the scoring spree by blasting a solo homer that was just fair inside the left-field corner.
“That started it,” Compton said. “It really sparked us.”
Ashley Collins and Ramie Castilleja each scored runs during the pivotal stretch.
“We got the key hits when we needed them,” added Compton, who also had a double. “I think (the win) is putting us in the right direction.”
Timely hitting has been the difference in the late-season turnaround for Arroyo Grande, which has now won six in a row.
A year ago, while Compton had similar numbers, the Eagles struggled to produce much run support for her, and were on the losing end of five one-run games in league play alone.
“We’ve got a tough league,” Ciecek said. “Pitching alone’s not going to do it. We knew we had pitching coming into this year, but we knew we had to score some runs.”
Also a considerable factor in Friday’s outcome, the Bearcats committed an uncharacteristic five errors.
“I’ve been saying since Day 1 that it’s anybody’s ballgame,” Paso Robles coach Val Reynolds said of the league. “We can’t give up five errors and expect to win anything when we play so sloppily. That was probably one of our worst games of the season.”
Given the pitcher on the other side, it was poor timing for the sudden departure from the norm for Paso Robles’ usually-efficient defense, Reynolds said.
“When everybody’s climbing for that position (in the standings), you cannot do that,” she added, “especially against Arroyo Grande, who has a really fine pitcher in the circle, and you’re just hoping she doesn’t throw a no-hitter or strike out 20 people.”
Alexa Munoz had an RBI double for Paso Robles.
Jenna Wookey drove in the Bearcats’ other run with a first-inning single, and Kellie Reynolds was 1 for 3 and drew a walk.Despite the miscues, Val Reynolds took solace in knowing that the Bearcats stayed in first.
A win over the Knights would clinch at least a share of the league title with one game to play.
“We’re still in it and still confident,” Reynolds said. “It would be nice if we would’ve won it and we’d be alone in that spot, and the next two games wouldn’t have mattered, but that’s sports. It’s competitive athletics, and it’s fun. Because it’s no fun to run away with it, I don’t think.”