San Luis Obispo County has a strong crop of upperclassmen in both softball and baseball, but there also has been a handful of young guns having an impact in the early part of the season. Here are a few who have particularly stood out:
Bailey Doherty, Atascadero, freshman
Bailey Doherty is a strong 14-year-old Atascadero freshman with a big bat and a strong arm on the mound.
“I was sort of expecting JV, and then they were like, ‘Come to varsity practices,’ ” Doherty said of making the team this season.
Doherty’s impact has been immediate. She has been playing the role of middle reliever/closer behind senior pitcher Megan McClain and has started pitching more as the season has progressed. She is also batting third in the lineup with a .444 average and three home runs.
In a big, extra-innings PAC 8 win over Arroyo Grande this week, Doherty came on to pitch in the third inning and held the Eagles to just one run in seven innings of work. She also went 3 for 5 from the plate. Doherty said following the game that she wasn’t nervous thanks to her time playing against top competition on her travel teams.
Doherty also earned the win on the mound against first-place Paso Robles to give the Bearcats their only loss of league play. Doherty and the rest of the Greyhounds (10-7, 5-3 PAC 8) are right in the thick of things in a tight PAC 8 race.
Xiao Gin, San Luis Obispo, freshman
Xiao Gin has an easy way to help you pronounce her Chinese surname.
“Shower without the ‘er,’ ” Gin said.
Her teammates call her Xiao, but she also goes by her middle name, Malia, just to make it easier on her teachers.
You can bet the rest of the PAC 8 knows her name by now. Gin is a dual threat for the second-place Tigers. The left-handed hitter is batting .478, second-best on the team, with one home run and is also the Tigers’ starting pitcher as a righty with a 1.62 ERA.
“It is just really fun,” Gin said of the season so far. “My team is just really supportive of each other. And we have two great captains, Marissa (Piatt) and Natalie (Ziegler), and they are really welcoming and lead this team.”
Gin’s season highlights include 10-strikeout and 9-strikeout performances in wins over Atascadero. SLO High (10-5, 6-2 PAC 8) is just one game behind first-place Paso Robles (10-8, 7-1 PAC 8).
Delanie Beavers, Mission Prep, freshman
Delanie Beavers is just one of a handful of talented freshmen, including Kyra Harris and Anna Reed, on a Mission Prep softball team in its first PAC 8 season.
Beavers is the team’s starting shortstop and has shown real pop at the plate. And though Mission Prep probably won’t make the playoffs this season (5-6, 2-6 PAC 8), her walk-off triple against St. Joseph to give the Royals their first-ever PAC 8 victory will secure her spot in the history books.
Ryan Harvel, Paso Robles, sophomore
Ryan Harvel’s freshman season was cut short about this time last year because of an injury. But the lefty pitcher is healthy this year and off to a great start for the tied-for-first-place Bearcats (14-3, 11-1 PAC 8).
“He’s done a nice job. I think last year’s experience in outings early in his freshman season carried over into this year,” Paso Robles coach Derek Stroud said.
Harvel is 4-1 as the Bearcats’ Tuesday starter and has an ERA of 0.94 in seven appearances. He has given up just 15 hits in 29.2 innings pitched.
With three games each week, many teams have struggled to find a third starter to take the pressure and innings off the aces who usually throw on Wednesday or Friday — not Paso Robles. Harvel is a nice complement to a rotation that includes Wednesday starter Brad Tews (2.30 ERA) and Friday ace Nolan Binkele (0.18 ERA).
Justice Gibbons, Templeton, sophomore
Justice Gibbons might already be one of the best defensive shortstops in the area.
“As a freshman, you could see right away. Defensively he was way mature and polished,” Templeton head coach Pete Kotheimer said. “He is clearly showing D-1 defensive ability.”
Gibbons is batting second for Templeton (13-6, 10-5 LPL), which is in second place in the Los Padres League. He has an on-base percentage over .400 and has been a solid situational hitter.
Gibbons can also throw heat on the mound and has been Templeton’s closer. Kotheimer said he could easily be one of the Eagles’ top pitchers, but he doesn’t want to move Gibbons from shortstop.
“He makes a big difference on our team,” Kotheimer said. “There is no way we are competing for a league title without him.”
Emilio Corona, Mission Prep, Freshman
Emilio Corona, the younger brother of football standout Brayden Corona, has been hitting for average and power so far this season for Mission Prep (5-6, 2-6 PAC 8). His three-run, walk-off home run against St. Joseph gave Mission Prep a 7-6 win. He leads his team with three long balls. Corona has a team-leading 13 RBI to go along with a .325 batting average. He also had a three-RBI game in an upset win over Arroyo Grande last month.
Corona has also stepped in to play catcher out of necessity, a big change for the freshman whose natural position is in the outfield.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Mission Prep is playing its first softball season in school history. This season Mission Prep is playing in its first season in the PAC 8, not its first season ever.