As Templeton High sophomore Ashley Daugherty stepped to the plate Thursday, the Alhambra left fielder backed up. When she finished, there was just a few yards of grass between her and the short chain-link fence.
She wasn’t far enough.
With a powerful swing, Daugherty crushed a fastball with so much force it sailed over the fence with 15 yards to spare. All the left fielder could do was watch.
On the mound, Daugherty was dominating again. In five innings, Daugherty struck out 12 batters to go along with 5 RBI for Templeton in a 20-2 run-rule win over Alhambra in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 playoffs.
It’s what many have come to expect, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.
Following an incredible freshman season that included her being named the Tribune Softball Player of the Year, Templeton softball star Ashley Daugherty had plenty of pressure heading into her sophomore season.
After verbally committing to Texas A&M as a freshman, Daugherty now has coaches from the SEC school closely tracking her progress, even though she won’t arrive in College Station until 2019. Add to that, as Templeton’s best player, her current teammates depend on her to dominate on the mound to keep them in games.
With all that on her plate, Daugherty hasn’t just sustained, she’s improved. But how? It starts at 5:30 a.m.
While many of her classmates were still in bed, Daugherty and third-baseman Kathleen Cline were in the gym during the fall and winter months. The impact is obvious. Daugherty’s 5-foot-9 frame has filled out, highlighted by her large biceps that flex when she hurls one of six different pitches.
“What people don’t see you do really shows on the field,” Daugherty said after the game Thursday.
After striking out 293 batters last season, Daugherty has improved on her strikeouts-per-inning numbers. Through 108 innings pitched this year, Daugherty has struck out 231 batters — 15 batters per seven innings. To put it another way, Daugherty has struck out more than 58 percent of the batters she has faced. She has thrown four no-hitters and seven one-hitters this season and is ranked No.7 in the entire Southern Section in strikeouts while throwing less innings than all but one pitcher ranked higher than her. She also has a 0.58 ERA and helps her own cause with a .467 batting average.
“I have seen her focus on what she has to do and not worry about doing it all,” Templeton head coach Henry Valaau said.
Valaau also credits the team’s improved hitting, overall defense and team chemistry in helping Templeton capture a Los Padres League title (12-2 Los Padres) — its first since 2008.
The Other Ashley
But it’s another Ashley who’s had a huge impact at the plate and gives Templeton a real shot at winning a Division 5 title.
Junior catcher Ashley Ingle is leading Templeton in batting average (.486) and RBI (32). She hit her team-leading fifth home run during a 12-run second inning Thursday.
“Five home runs … that’s pretty sweet,” Ingle said.
After playing outfield last season, Ingle has transitioned easily to catcher thanks to her time spent playing the same position with Daugherty on their club team since seventh grade.
“She has a new confidence to her,” Daugherty said.
The two sluggers are leading the way with their work ethic and the team — and winning — is following.
The were early signs that Templeton could compete against good teams. The season started with an eight-game winning streak that included wins over Paso Robles, PAC 8 champs San Luis Obispo and defending Division 5 champions Lompoc. Templeton, who advanced to the quarterfinals last season, will look to make a deeper run this season. They will play Godinez on the road in the second round Tuesday.
“When we played teams from the PAC 8 early this year, that kind of set the tone of our season,” Daugherty said. “Now, coming into CIF, I think this (win against Alhambra) set the tone for our play in CIF.”