Marissa McClain hurt her hamstring in the first game of the Atascadero High softball season.
It forced her to spend some time in rehabilitation, though she tried a couple times — unsuccessfully — to complete a full comeback. She had been anxiously waiting to contribute.
McClain finally got that chance on a warm Friday afternoon against Arroyo Grande, producing a powerful two-run home run in the fifth inning to push the Greyhounds to a 3-0 home win over the defending PAC 7 champions. The right-handed senior connected on a high pitch from Arroyo Grande’s Jill Compton, sending it deep to left-center field.
McClain couldn’t help but become a little emotional after the long ball because she had been waiting for her turn.
“I was hurt early in the season,” she said, “so this was one of my first games back. To have that, I started crying running around the bases.”
Compton, a Fresno State signee, was throwing a perfect game for the Eagles (15-9, 5-4 PAC 7). But with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, she walked a batter and then gave up the homer.
Compton threw a complete game with eight strikeouts, allowing two earned runs and three hits. She and Atascadero’s Jessie Hufstetler had an exciting pitching duel in a quick game that ended in about 70 minutes, with Hufstetler going on to earn the win after striking out three batters and giving up one hit — a fourth-inning double to Arroyo Grande’s Maurisa Dominguez.
The Greyhounds (22-2, 8-1 PAC 7) had an insurance run in the sixth, when Hufstetler singled in Nique Mack.
Late in the game, they started to figure out Compton.
“She pitched a lot of first-pitch strikes, and we started swinging the bat a little bit early in the count,” said Hufstetler, who’s signed with San Jose State. “One of the downfalls was we’d get down on the count and fight off her high pitches. Getting ahead in the count and swinging on the first or second pitch really helped us get base hits.”
Atascadero coach Darin Traverso was pleased to see his players unafraid to go for the big swings.
“I joked with them early in the season. I said, ‘I’m a hitting coach. I don’t like to do a lot of bunting. We hit,’ ” he said. “So a lot of our drills are power drills. And they’re just confident. They’re a confident team.”
The win puts the Greyhounds in position to contend for the PAC 7 title, especially after Righetti — the team responsible for one of Atascadero’s two losses this seasons — lost to last-place St. Joseph on Tuesday that gave the Knights their first league win. With that, the Greyhounds will continue to battle.
And so will the Eagles.
“We need to take the weekend to regroup and go back to work on Monday and readjust our goals for the season and think about where we go from here,” Arroyo Grande coach Kristin Ciecek said. “Obviously, making the playoffs is still a big goal of ours and making it in the best possible placement in league that we can to make the best possible goal (in the playoffs) that we can.”