Jessie Hufstetler couldn’t help but watch.
With the score tied and runners at first and third with two outs in the seventh inning, she turned on a pitch and sent it high into the air toward the leftfield wall. And as the ball left the bat, she — momentarily — stopped.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I should probably start jogging now,’ ” she said. “If that does not go over, I am in trouble.”
But the ball did, giving her a three-run, walk-off home run to give Atascadero (25-3) a 5-2 win Thursday in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 softball playoffs — the team’s first opening-round win since 2005.
“I try in those situations not to think about anything,” Hufstetler said. “Whatever happens happens and I just knew I had to get a hit somehow, somewhere.”
It was Hufstetler’s first hit of the game, and first walk-off home run of her career. She also started in the circle for the Greyhounds, giving up two unearned runs on four hits in seven innings.
“They were a good contact hitting team,” she said. “I just had to get ahead early.
“They found holes where we couldn’t get to.”
Paramount did that in the top of the fifth inning. With two outs, Sydney Roumeliotis hit a two-out double to leftfield that was dropped by the left fielder, allowing two runs to score to put the Pirates ahead 2-1.
Atascadero’s Ashlee Reusche then evened the score in the bottom of the inning, after a groundout to first brought home Keara Blodget to give the Greyhounds their second run of the game.
That set the stage for Hufstetler in the seventh, and she didn’t disappoint.
“Those kids that are at the top of that order don’t know how to lose,” Atascadero coach Darin Traverso said. “I knew something good was going to happen. You just get that good feeling.”
And with the win, the Greyhounds addressed the one thing that has been following them all year: expectations.
The Greyhounds ran through their regular season schedule, winning eight of their last 10 games to earn a PAC 7 championship with a 10-2 record. But with their last win in the playoffs being a 4-2 win over Cerritos in 2005, the Greyhounds were out to prove that they could get over the hump this year.
And they did, ending a six-year losing streak.
“I use one word to describe each day’s practice and the very first word that I used on Monday was expectations,” Traverso said. “I mean Atascadero is a great softball program, they have a very long softball history, but they have a longer history of just losing that first round game no matter how good they are. So like I said, getting over that was important.”
Now, with the Greyhounds riding high, they will take on the winner Highland or Mira Costa in a second-round matchup Tuesday. But Traverso is going to let his team celebrate before getting back onto the field.
“Really we just want to keep them going, keep the roll going,” Traverso said.