It was barely over a year ago that few girls on the Arroyo Grande High softball team knew who Natilee Parrish was.
“When I came and tried out as a freshman, it was kind of like, ‘Oh, who’s the new girl?’ ” she said. “And then they saw me pitching, and everyone started coming over to talk to me.”
These days, the PAC 8 is well aware of what Parrish and a young, potent Eagles lineup is capable of.
Parrish is The Tribune County Player of the Year after hitting.494 with a team-high 27 RBI, 22 runs, seven doubles and three home runs in leading Arroyo Grande to a share of the league title with Righetti.
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The second straight sophomore to win the award after Atascadero’s Sally Bowles in 2014, Parrish was one of six Eagles 10th-graders to land on the PAC 8 All-League teams.
“I picked most of them up as freshmen on the varsity team, and it was just a learning year,” coach John Welch said. “We were going to build this program; I didn’t think it’d happen as quick as it did.
“A coach is only as good as his horses, and man, we’ve got a whole bunch of stallions on this team.”
Parrish made her varsity debut as both a pitcher and hitter her freshman year. She was 2-6 in the circle with a 4.23 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 54 2-3 innings. She also hit .268 with nine RBI and two homers as the Eagles went 9-16 and finished fifth in the PAC 7.
She primarily played at first base this season, filling a need at the position while fellow sophomore Julie Lewis handled the pitching duties for the majority of the league season.
“It was frustrating at first, because I thought that was because I wasn’t good enough and that’s something that’s never happened to me before,” said Parrish, who plays club softball for the OC Batbusters in Los Angeles. “I finally sat down with one of my coaches, and Mariah (Cochiolo) told me I’m a great pitcher but they needed me at first. It’s not always what’s best for you, it’s what’s best for the team. That’s when it kind of hit me that not everything is to benefit one person. We’re a team.”
Her efforts at first base didn’t go unnoticed, either.
“The one thing they don’t track,” Welch said, “is how many times she saved an error where the ball was thrown low and she was digging it, or she was jumping and tagging the girl as she went by.”
Added Cochiolo, a first-year assistant who played catcher at Cal Poly: “She made our bad throws look really good.”
At the plate, a focused approach helped the left-hander get a hit nearly half the times she stepped up to bat.
“I just had a lot of confidence going up to the plate,” said Parrish, who hopes to play for Cal Poly or another Division I school, “telling myself that I was going to hit and then I would do it.
“Softball is anywhere from 70-90 percent mental. So if mentally you have it, you’re pretty much good.”
Parrish hit third in a lineup that scored 7.2 runs a game in the league season en route to a 10-2 record in the PAC 8.
“Anything she takes deep into the outfield, she’s on third standing,” said Cochiolo of Parrish, who hit four triples.
“She can lay down a bunt as well as put it over the fence, and that type of versatility is killer to have.”
Parrish was one of three sophomores to homer in Arroyo Grande’s 12-0 opening-round win over Arlington in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs — the Eagles’ first playoff win since 2011.
The victory earned Arroyo Grande a contest with Mission Viejo, which MaxPreps.com rated as the No. 1 team in the nation.
“It was interesting,” Parrish said of the 10-0 defeat. “Of course we knew it was going to be hard the farther we went in the playoffs, but we never thought they would be that good.
“It kind of knocked us off our high horse, but that’s not always a bad thing.”
It was a learning experience, and Parrish and her fellow sophomores have two more years to apply the lesson.
“Natilee is the type that in a game or practice is going to push the envelope and go full speed every day,” Cochiolo said. “The way she played, her style and her competitiveness, inspired the other girls and raised the level for the whole team.”
ALL-COUNTY SOFTBALL Team
Player of the Year: Natilee Parrish, Arroyo Grande, sophomore
- Sally Bowles, Atascadero, junior
- Chloe Kerns, Paso Robles, junior
- Julie Lewis, Arroyo Grande, sophomore
- Fallon Molnar, Morro Bay, junior
- Katie Murphee, Templeton, freshman
- Logan Nunes, Arroyo Grande, sophomore
- Sam Oliver, Arroyo Grande, sophomore
- Marissa Piatt, San Luis Obispo, sophomore
- Saundra Renner, Nipomo, senior
- Jenna Rogers, Paso Robles, senior
- Jessica Rouse, Atascadero, senior
- Kacie Burger, Arroyo Grande, sophomore
- Kathleen Cline, Templeton, freshman
- Sami Good, San Luis Obispo, junior
- Kaila Herzig, Atascadero, junior
- Bailey Killough, Arroyo Grande, junior
- Ellie Magnuson, Coast Union, junior
- Madison Romero, Paso Robles, senior
- Kendall Schemmer, Morro Bay, sophomore
- Rebecca Twyman, Paso Robles, freshman
- Sarah Wulff, Atascadero, sophomore
- Sabina Ybarra, San Luis Obispo, senior
- Gennae Abatti, Nipomo, sophomore
- Sidney Barlogio, Templeton, junior
- Patty Bucio, Coast Union, senior
- Roni Garrison, Coastal Christian, senior
- Hope Goodall, Nipomo, sophomore
- Ashley Ingle, Templeton, freshman
- Taylor Merrill, Morro Bay, sophomore
- Hannah Murphy, San Luis Obispo, junior
- Alex Newsom, Atascadero, senior
- Ashley Ramirez, Coast Union, junior
- Alexcia Silva, Arroyo Grande, senior
SAN LUIS OBISO COUNTY SOFTBALL PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
- 1981 Cari Furness Arroyo Grande Sr.
- 1982 Missy Silacci Morro Bay So.
- 1983 Christy Fiscalini Coast Union Sr.
- 1984 Missy Silacci Morro Bay Sr.
- 1985 Lori Atwell Morro Bay Sr.
- 1986 Debbie Sligh Atascadero Sr.
- 1987 Mary Lou Branham Atascadero Sr.
- 1988 Carolynn Blake Paso Robles Sr.
- 1989 Cheryl Towery Coastal Christian So.
- 1990 Jessica Allen San Luis Obispo So.
- 1991 Kathy Blake Paso Robles Sr.
- 1992 Cynthia Barnett Templeton Sr.
- 1993 Tara Thompson Atascadero Jr.
- 1994 Tara Thompson Atascadero Sr.
- 1995 Kristina Von Achen Arroyo Grande Sr.
- 1996 Cori Ryan Atascadero Sr.
- 1997 Shawna Robinson Atascadero Sr.
- 1998 Tiffany Goudy Paso Robles Sr.
- 1999 Kelli White Templeton Sr.
- 2000 Kara Dixon Morro Bay Jr.
- 2001 Kara Dixon Morro Bay Sr.
- 2002 Nina Van Alfen Atascadero Sr.
- 2003 Katie Burkhart San Luis Obispo Jr.
- 2004 Katie Burkhart San Luis Obispo Sr.
- 2005 Lindsay Campana Templeton Sr.
- 2006 Kat Hicks Templeton So.
- 2007 Jill McClelland Templeton Jr.
- 2008 Michelle Moses Paso Robles Sr.
- 2009 Kim Dauer Morro Bay Sr.
- 2010 Jill Johnson Atascadero Jr.
- 2011 Jill Compton Arroyo Grande Jr.
- 2012 Jessi Hufstetler Atascadero Sr.
- 2013 Courtney Cuzick Nipomo Sr.
- 2014 Sally Bowles Atascadero So.
- 2015 Natilee Parrish Arroyo Grande So.