After opening league play 10-0 in 2014, the Atascadero High softball team lost two games in three days against Righetti and Pioneer Valley, and with it, a chance for the then-
PAC 7 title.
But with reigning Tribune County Player of the Year Sally Bowles and fellow first-team selections Kaila Herzig and Sarah Wulff back, the Greyhounds look to finish what they started last season.
Atascadero rolled through the first half of PAC 7 play and had its sights on the league title before an injury to Wulff — a standout freshman and the Greyhounds’ leadoff hitter — along with the rigors of a long season put those hopes on hold.
“When we came back from spring break, the injury to Wulff was a bump in the second half of the season and we never got going again,” coach Darin Traverso said. “We lost sight of our goals with just six games remaining.”
Bowles’ sophomore campaign included a 16-4 record in the circle with a 1.64 ERA and 100 strikeouts while hitting .407 and knocking in 22 runs.
Classmates Ally Reagan and Herzig hit .438 and .376, respectively, and combined for 54 RBI and 11 home runs.
The trio’s added experience has the Greyhounds poised for another run at the league title.
“Our leadership this year has come from the junior class,” Traverso said. “They have been used to taking a back seat, deferring to the seniors before taking the responsibility this season.”
Last season’s senior captains made their presence known on defense, as Kaala Wood was 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA in the circle, and Nique Mack and Cheyenne Hufstetler anchored an athletic outfield.
Traverso described it as, “a sense of relief when a ball was in the air knowing (Mack and Hufstetler) would track it down.”
This season, Atascadero (4-4 after Friday) has scored 10 or more runs in every win, including two, 21-run performances. It opens PAC 8 play against Paso Robles on March 24.
Despite the recent success, the Greyhounds are not taking anything for granted and are, “giving everyone the respect they deserve,” Traverso said.
The Bearcats return their core offensive group, highlighted by All-County first-teamer Chloe Kerns.
“Chloe has that natural leadership quality making it easy for her to take command,” coach Val Reynolds said. “She has great knowledge of the game and the kids look up to her.”
The junior hit .479 and tied with classmate and All-County second-team pitcher Dakota Rodriguez with in 19 RBI — second to senior third baseman Danielle Lambert (25).
Paso Robles graduated first-teamer M’Lynn Martin, who hit .339, and second-teamer Delaney Cline, who hit .324.
Martin was a four-year starting catcher, and Kerns will fill the void by moving back into her natural position behind the plate, Reynolds said.
The Bearcats struggled last year because of a lack of depth, but finished 8-4 in league with all four losses coming against second-place Atascadero and league-champion Righetti.
“Last year, we felt like we were scraping things together,” Reynolds said. “This year, we don’t feel like we’re held together with duct tape, not panicking when needing to make subs.”
Paso Robles has started the season 3-2 with wins over Morro Bay, Templeton and Nipomo by an average of 14 runs.
Arroyo Grande looks to build upon a fifth-place finish in the PAC 7 (4-8) and it returns senior Alexcia Silva, who earned All-County second-team honors by hitting .375.
The Eagles also return sophomores Logan Nunes, Sam Oliver and Kacie Burger.
Nunes led the young group with a .360 average, while Oliver hit .355 with 10 RBI and Burger hit .333 with 12 RBI.
Sophomore Natilee Parrish is 1-0 this year with a 1.20 ERA, and Arroyo Grande is 2-2 on the season.
San Luis Obispo begins the 2015 season with new coach Dan Monroe at the helm, and the Tigers are off to a 3-1 start.
Returning is All-County first-team shortstop Marissa Piatt along with juniors Sabina Ybarra, Bee Soll and Sam Good.
Ybarra and Soll are hitting .455 and .333, respectively, while Good is undefeated in the circle and has yet to allow an earned run in 11 innings.
Mission Prep won’t field a team this season.
Los Padres League teams looking to make a push
Morro Bay finished tied for second with Lompoc (8-4) last year, but graduated Marissa Tabares and her 13 complete games along with Madelynn Martinez and her team-high 21 RBI.
Morro Bay (1-4-1) brings back an impressive young core of sophomores, highlighted by All-County first-team outfielder Emma Hotaling.
Hotaling hit .339 while classmate Taylor Merrill hit .349 and drove in 14 runs.
Nipomo (1-3) graduated four-year starters Destiny Fryckman, Ashley Ruiz and Vangie Lopez, but return All-County first-teamer Hope Goodall and second-teamer Bri Sa.
The two freshmen stood out for Nipomo in their first year, as Sa was 10-6 with a 1.55 ERA, and Goodall hit .371 and led the team in runs (33).
Templeton (1-3) has started slowly after losing All-County first-teamers Corinne Barto and Ashley Stevens, and second-teamer Kiana Alba to graduation.
The Eagles’ lone win was against Coast Union.
Coast Union is coming off an undefeated season in Coast Valley League play
(8-0), but is 1-5 to start 2015.
Returning is junior pitcher Ellie Magnuson, who earned a second team selection last year.