If searching for a fitting way to describe the final month of the Atascadero High softball team’s season, look no further than how it concluded in Tuesday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3 first-round home game against California.
The Greyhounds got off to a strong start against the Condors from Whittier, scoring a run in each of the first two innings and making all the necessary defensive plays behind sophomore pitcher Sally Bowles.
But once they committed an error and their opponent capitalized, the bats went quiet and the miscues snowballed into a 9-2 loss for the bracket’s sixth-seeded team.
“We just got into a funk here at the end of the season,” said coach Darin Traverso, whose team was unbeaten in league and on an 11-game win streak May 9 but ended with three straight defeats. “We just weren’t playing the best softball.
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“It’s unfortunate because I would have liked to see that good team (from earlier in the year) play in a game like this.”
California’s Trisha Trujillo struck out seven in a complete-game performance and drove in four runs at the plate, including a two-run home run in the fourth. The Condors took advantage of four Atascadero errors to score eight of their nine runs with two outs.
“That team hit the ball where it needed to be hit and when it needed a hit,” Greyhounds senior outfielder Nique Mack said. “We just couldn’t come through with our defense, and that’s unfortunate for us.”
Mack, the leadoff hitter, singled twice and scored a run, and Bowles and Kaila Herzig both had a pair of singles. Herzig and Leanne White both drove in a run early, but Atascadero couldn’t muster much else against Trujillo, who entered the game with an ERA of 1.00 and 165 strikeouts in 153 innings.
“Once they got ahead, our team kind of panicked, not just defensively but offensively,” Traverso said. “Everyone starts thinking they have to do more, so we were allowing her to get ahead and started giving her confidence.”
The Greyhounds led 2-0 in the top of the third, when Bowles hit leadoff batter Rachel Shumaker, who came around to score when White couldn’t field a low throw to first by third baseman Alese Dominguez on a grounder by Miranda Perez.
Perez advanced to second on the error and stole third with two outs. Bowles walked Carley Espinoza, and as ball four made its way to the backstop, Espinoza advanced to second to put two runners in scoring position. Jaclyn Macias followed with a two-run single to left, and the Condors (17-11) led the rest of the way.
“If you were to look at earned runs, it would be a 4-2 or 3-2 game,” Traverso said, “but it was the unearned runs that killed us.”
Two more errors in the fourth led to three more two-out runs, including Trujillo’s blast that came on the first pitch she saw and sailed well over the fence in left field. Mack finally ended the inning with a spectacular diving catch in left, but the damage was done.
“I’m bummed the season is over, and I love this group of girls, but it is what it is,” Mack said. “We didn’t take care of business and that’s how it ended.”
The Greyhounds (23-6-1) were the toast of the Central Coast for much of the season, rebounding from last year’s 9-15 campaign to own a double-digit win streak that included a 3-1 win over defending Division 3 champion Righetti.
But the Warriors cruised to a 10-3 victory in the rematch, meaning Atascadero would have to win its regular-season finale against Pioneer Valley to share the PAC 7 title with Righetti. The Greyhounds dropped that game 11-7 Thursday, and the season ended five days later.
“It’s not as sad overall as it feels now, because we did a lot better compared to last year,” said junior outfielder Mckenzi Etchison, who was one of three players to hit at least four home runs this season. “A lot of us didn’t think we’d end up like this. We lost in the first round, but still, what we accomplished is pretty exciting.”
Six seniors will graduate, but Bowles will be back on the mound, and batting leaders such as Etchison, freshman Sara Wulff and sophomores Herzig and Allison Reagan will be another year older with the ups and downs from this season to draw upon in future situations.
“We had a great bounceback from last year,” Traverso said. “We had a great run in the middle of the season … and they set a tone. A lot of the younger kids were leading the girls, and that’s what’s exciting for me. It’s not like we’re going to be starting from scratch. We’ll have a good core coming back, some good JV players coming up, and we’ll try it again.”