ATASCADERO — The Atascadero girls softball team had a wild end to their regular season where they lost on senior night to San Luis Obispo, falling a game behind the Bearcats in the standings, only to have the Templeton Eagles beat Paso Robles on their own senior night leaving the door open for the Hounds to tie for the Mountain League title, which they did.
Upon earning a piece of the league title, the Hounds were seeded seventh in the CIF Central Section Division 1 playoffs and earned the right to host their opening-round game against Bakersfield-Centennial on Tuesday and cruised to a 6-0 victory on the shoulders of their star pitcher Bailey Doherty.
The Atascadero ace is so great that amazing feats like playoff no-hitters, just a single hit batter away from a perfect game, have become almost routine as this is the second time in two years that she has tossed a no-hitter to open up the Hounds’ playoff run as she also threw a no-hitter against St. Bonaventure in 2018.
The Hawks’ lone baserunner of the day came in the top of the second inning when a ball got away from Doherty low, hitting the Centennial batter in the leg. While Doherty was excellent on the bump this was not one of her most dominating performances, as she only struck out six, it was her defense that kept the Hawks off the base paths for the entire afternoon.
Senior catcher Claire Lohayza sparked the Hounds on offense as the only player to record multiple hits in the game, one of which needed a plane ticket if you were hoping to catch it as it sailed over the left-center fence for a solo shot in the bottom of the third inning. Lohayza scored three of Atascadero's runs scoring the first one on a Centennial error in the first inning. After being hit by a pitch to open the game, the veteran baserunner and speedster stole second. Taylor Herzig laid down a bunt in the next at-bat, reaching first safely, moving Lohazya to third where she eventually came in to score after an attempt to catch Herzig swiping second went into center field.
With a two-run lead in the third inning, Atascadero dropped it into cruise control and rolled to victory. Atascadero added a run in the fifth inning before tacking on three more in the bottom of the sixth. The sixth inning scoring began with a Katie Perry single, a defensive error and a sacrifice bunt that put the Perry sisters in scoring position with only one out. Ellie Rodriguez and Lohayza each picked up an RBI on the next two at-bats and the score was 6-0.
Atascadero will have a quick turnaround for the quarterfinals that are Thursday afternoon. The Hounds will be on the road the rest of the way as all the seeds remaining in the playoffs are higher than No. 7, except for the Bearcats who they would meet in the championship at a neutral site. Thursday Atascadero will take on the No. 2 overall seed in Clovis North. The Broncos are 21-5-1 this season while the Hounds are 20-8. The two teams are evenly matched on paper, Clovis West is plus-80 in run differential this season while Atascadero is plus-71, and have played 10 similar opponents. In games against the similar opponents, the Hounds are 5-5 while the Broncos are 6-4. First pitch will be at 4:30 p.m. in Fresno.
For scores and up-to-the minute updates from the game follow sports editor Connor Allen (@ConnorCAllen) on Twitter.