Ashley Daugherty knew her Templeton High softball team would figure it out eventually.
So, for six innings on the mound Tuesday afternoon against Barstow in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 playoffs, the freshman pitcher did what she does best: strike out everything in sight as the offense eventually came around in a 9-0 home victory.
She fanned 11 batters through six innings as the game remained scoreless. Then something clicked offensively for the Eagles at the top of the order, with only two hits up to that point. Makayla Jo Zundel led off with a double to center field, and Daugherty followed with a double of her own. After a Katie Murphee walk, Sydney Barlogio stepped to the plate.
“She has been very successful in pushing runners over from third on a squeeze play,” Templeton coach Henry Valaau said. “And she did it again.”
Barlogio reached for a ball above her head, way out of the strike zone, and placed a perfect bunt down the first base line to score Zundel for the first run of the game.
“Once we scored that run, it was like everybody bought in to the fact that we would win this game because we knew we had Ashley on the mound,” Valaau said.
The floodgates opened, and Templeton exploded for eight more runs, effectively sending them through to the quarterfinal round. The Eagles scored four more runs in the inning before Daugherty stepped to the plate again for the coup de grâce.
With the bases loaded, she took an inside fastball deep over the left-field fence to make it 9-0. It was her fourth home run of the season.
“I saw the inside pitch, and I just attacked it. (Barstow pitcher Heather Shipley) had been throwing inside all game, and I took a step off the plate and I knew where it was coming,” said Daugherty, who went 2 for 4 with four RBIs.
After the big inning, Daugherty returned to the mound to strike out two more Barstow batters, ending the game with 13 strikeouts.
Though the big breakthrough for Templeton came in the sixth inning, a key defensive play in the top of the third inning gave the Eagles an extra boost of confidence.
Daugherty gave up her first hit of the game, and third baseman Kathleen Cline and second baseman Ashley Ingle combined for a double play. It was a play that might not have happened a few months ago, when Templeton’s defense was struggling.
“It really fired us up. It was great to see our defense working like that. That play kind of got everyone excited,” Daugherty said, adding that she doesn’t think the team has had an error since a 2-1 loss to Lompoc on April 26.
Since then, Templeton has won seven in a row.
“When we started the year, we were making a lot of stupid mistakes. But as we start to believe in each other, it has been getting better,” Valaau said. “I am very proud of them.”
Templeton will look to keep the defense and pitching rolling when it faces La Reina in Thousand Oaks in the quarterfinals at 3:15 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s going to be fun,” Daugherty said. “We are going to come back tomorrow and work, and we are going to come out Thursday and we are going to get ‘em.”