Templeton pitcher Ashley Daugherty has more pitches than she can count on one hand.
A screw ball, a curve ball, a “rise,” a “drop,” a changeup and a fastball occupy her bag of tricks. Not bad for a freshman.
She used most of them on Tuesday in a home game against Lompoc in Templeton. For eight innings, the Braves didn’t stand a chance. At one point the Lompoc hitters waved the white flag and resorted to trying to bunt every pitch instead of the inevitable swings and misses. Even that proved difficult with Daugherty’s movement and speed. When the game was over, Daugherty finished with 19 strikeouts.
As impressive an outing as it was for the 14-year-old, it wasn’t enough to get the win.
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Lompoc pitcher Olivia Gutierrez turned in an impressive performance of her own, striking out 12 and leading the first-place Braves to a 3-0 extra-innings win.
“A 19-strikeout effort in a losing cause,” Templeton coach Henry Valaau said. “It’s just one of those heart breakers. The pitcher was locating inside, we just couldn’t make the adjustment.”
The game was scoreless through eight innings before Gutierrez led off the top of the ninth with a double off the center-field wall.
That opened the flood gates.
Two balls that should have been easy outs slid between the legs of the Templeton infielders and led to the three-run inning. Daugherty grounded out to second base for the game’s final out.
“It happens,” Daugherty said. “Teams make mistakes, it’s understandable, but I think that we did all that we could. (Gutierrez) was a decent pitcher. I just feel like we haven’t seen that a lot, so our bats were late.”
After the loss, Valaau pulled the 5-foot-9, broad-shouldered freshman aside. He asked her what happened in the final innings. She couldn’t explain it.
Maybe because she hasn’t had to very often this season.
Daugherty burst onto the prep softball scene in March. In her first game, she struck out 11 in a 4-5 loss to Paso Robles. She followed it up with a 20-strikeout performance in a 1-1 tie with San Luis Obispo.
Her fastball reaches speeds of 65 miles per hour. In terms of reaction time, that’s on par with a 94-mph fastball from a Major League Baseball pitcher. Valaau said she has already received an offer from a Division I school, but she has chosen to wait to make a decision on where she will play in college. There are four or five other schools that are interested, Valaau said.
“She is 14 years old. I have to remind myself of that all the time,” Valaau said. “But she knows what she is doing on the mound, there is no doubt about that.”
The highlight of Daugherty’s season came last week against Nipomo. She stuck out 15 Titan batters and gave up no hits in a 4-0 win.
Her early success might have been a surprise to many, but it’s not to Valaau, who has been a fixture on the local softball scene, coaching for 10 years at Cuesta College and various club softball teams. This year, Templeton gave him a shot at his first head coaching job and paired him with Daugherty, who he has been coaching since she was 9-years-old.
“With the new coaches this year, we just have a new chemistry, and we are all blending together,” Daugherty said.
Valaau called Daugherty a “fighter,” a characterization that showed up on Tuesday. Three times with Lompoc runners on third base; three times Daughtery ended the inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
Coming into Tuesday’s game against Lompoc, Daugherty had a 0.64 ERA.
And she can hit too.
Her .435 batting average was second on the team going into the game, and her 14 RBI and three triples are team highs.
But as Tuesday proved, pitching is not the problem.
“Our offense is lacking a little bit,” Valaau said. “But it is something that we will work on when we come back tomorrow.”
Templeton (12-5-1, 8-3 Los Padres) will get another shot at first-place Lompoc on Friday on the road.
Daugherty will again be on the mound with plenty of pitches on hand.