Sitting in the back of the room her sophomore year, Atascadero’s Claire Lohayza watched as senior shortstop Sarah Wulff was handed the MVP of the team award for the 2017 season after leading the team offensively with her bat and defensively with her glove.
“I played with Sara Wulff,” Lohayza said, “and she was an MVP and I remember being at the banquet and thinking that is what I want.”
That was the first time that Lohayza started thinking about the specific goal to be the best on the Atascadero softball team but her drive and competitiveness led her to an accolade that Wulff, who now plays for Cal Poly, was never able to reach in high school, the best player in the league. To be clear, it is not Wulff or any other specific person that drives Lohayza to be the best. She is not constantly thinking about being better than any specific person or proving someone wrong because, in fact, there is no specific person.
“There is no one that really stands out [in softball] because I feel like if I try as hard as they do all the time I can be just as good as them,” Lohayza explained. “So that is why I don’t have any role models.”
Lohayza had just earned her first all-league honor as she sat in the back of the room and watched the festivities for the seniors, an honorable mention nod following her sophomore campaign where she hit .494 with 23 RBI and six home runs. Over the past two years, Lohayza collected a lot more hardware including two first team all-league selections, one in soccer and one in softball, Atascadero’s Female Athlete of the Year and Mountain League Co-MVP.
“The funny thing is that I never liked it and my dad forced me to play it,” Lohayza said of how she began playing softball. Like many children, she was forced to play the sports her parents loved. Lohayza’s father Jon loves baseball and kept her in everything softball related while her mom, Ami, did the same with soccer. Lohayza played both sports harmoniously while she was younger and as she became more comfortable and started settling into her spots.
While most kids gravitate toward playing in the field, Lohayza found her place in the leadership role. Whether it be at catcher or keeper it is always her job to be the eyes for the rest of the team.
“It was just kind of given to me and I just ran with it,” Lohayza said of her leadership role in sports growing up, but now it has become a part of the player she is. “Now I’m in every play of the game and I control the field. I am the one that has to talk the most and knows where all the plays are especially when the ball is in the outfield because everyone’s back is to me.”
It a stressful situation. Lohayza acts as a lighthouse guiding her teammates through the stormy seas. Her voice echoes into the outfield letting her teammates know what is happening behind them on the basepath while they worry about fielding the ball.
Last summer, Lohayza was forced to choose between soccer and softball. Not at the high school level but for her summer training as both her travel soccer team and travel softball team had too many scheduling conflicts. After little thought, the Mountain League Co-MVP choose softball and proved to be one of the two best in the league according to the coaches.
In her senior season, she led Atascadero in stolen bases with 24, batting average at .477, doubles with 11, triples with six, runs scored with 33 and hits with 41 and was second on the team in RBI with 14 while in the leadoff position.
The leadoff spot is crucial for any offense and the Hounds were able to jump out to many early leads thanks to Lohayza’s ability to get on base and into scoring position, setting the table for the Bailey(e)’s that would follow.
The North County star will stay local for at least one more year and will play next fall for the Cuesta Cougars in San Luis Obispo while she tries to draw the attention of a four-year college.