High School Sports

Righetti crushes Atascadero to force tie atop PAC 7 softball race

ORCUTT — Atascadero High softball coach Darin Traverso had been seeing it all year long — one team pounces on another’s mistakes to score runs in bunches.

But Tuesday marked the first time this season his Greyhounds were on the wrong end of the equation, and the price of their 10-3 loss at Righetti likely will be a split PAC 7 championship instead of an outright league title.

Atascadero’s three first-inning errors led to four runs for the Warriors and the Greyhounds never recovered, snapping an 11-game winning streak and an unblemished league record.

“We got in a funk,” Traverso said. “We didn’t make a couple plays. We didn’t make a couple pitches. That got them on a roll, and good teams do that. We do that. We’ll score three or four, and that’s what happened to them.”

Atascadero and Righetti both hold identical records in PAC 7 play at 10-1, with both teams beating the other at home for a series split.

The Greyhounds host Pioneer Valley (6-5) on Thursday at the same time Righetti closes out the regular season at home against San Luis Obispo (2-9). By way of a lottery, Traverso said, Atascadero would be the PAC 7’s No. 1 seed in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs if there were co-champions.

“As important as this game was, it wasn’t the end of the world,” said Traverso, whose team fell behind 7-0 after three innings. “What’s more important is our approach to it and how we respond to it.”

Alese Dominguez and Mckenzi Etchison both had a pair of singles for the Greyhounds (22-5-1), and Keara Blodget and Kaila Herzig both singled and drew a walk.

That was it for an Atascadero offense that failed to adapt to Righetti pitcher Stephanie Villalovos, who pounded the strike zone with a mix of fastballs and changeups.

“She worked the count, but we didn’t adjust at all,” said Herzig, who also scored twice. “Some adjusted the second and third time up but, for the most part, no one really took what happened the last at-bat and put it in perspective.”

Meanwhile, the Warriors (22-6) made plenty of contact off Atascadero starter Sally Bowles after the Greyhounds’ sloppy first inning gave Righetti a four-run cushion.

The sophomore tallied three strikeouts to go with two hit batters and a walk, as the Warriors racked up 12 hits.

“Once they started hitting her, she just needs a little bit more maturity to be able to work through that,” said Traverso of Bowles, the team ace who entered the game with a 16-2 record and a 1.53 ERA. “She’s getting there, and she’s only sophomore, so the future looks bright.”

Trailing 7-0 in the top of the fourth, Atascadero got on the scoreboard when Herzig scored on a passed ball, and an error by the third baseman brought home Etchison.

But Jacqui Prober hit an RBI double and scored on a bunt by Mariah Zaragoza in the bottom half of the frame to wipe out the headway the Greyhounds made in the top half.

An RBI single by Dominguez in the sixth was nullified in the same inning on a sacrifice fly by Zaragoza.

Herzig, a sophomore who leads the team in home runs (six) and RBI (27), said tensions in the dugout started to run high as the Warriors built their early lead.

“Some people were trying to lift everyone up, but some were starting to turn on each other in a way,” she said.

Traverso said it’s all part of the growth of his young team, and that the end of a double-digit win streak could be a positive.

“Towards the middle of the game they started to get on each other a little bit,” he said. “We hadn’t been down and we weren’t used to playing from behind. The last few innings, we just started playing from within and trying to win the inning.

“We haven’t played a lot of tough teams, and we need to know what this feels like. I hate to lose, but we have been on an 11-game win streak and it is good to be reminded that somebody can beat us.”

The game was played under a relentless sun and featured a pair of teams who hadn’t lost in over a month. Righetti’s last defeat came at the hands of the Greyhounds on April 11, when Atascadero snapped the Warriors’ 18-game PAC 7 winning streak with a 3-1 victory at home. Righetti didn’t waste any time returning the favor on its home diamond.

Bowles walked the first batter, Gladys Esparza, who stole second and scored when Teanna Silveira’s grounder went through Herzig’s legs at shortstop. A hit batter, a throwing error, a sacrifice fly and a passed ball later, the Greyhounds trailed 4-0 before the first inning was over.

“I’m pretty disappointed because I know we are a lot better than this,” Herzig said. “We didn’t play our best, and we didn’t work as hard as we should have.

“We just have to learn from this and be the team I know we are.”