Young team learning to win in life after Doherty with each game
ATASCADERO — The Atascadero High School (AHS) Greyhound softball team is off to another great start this spring but are winning games differently now that their former ace, Bailey Doherty, is pitching no-hitters for the Cal Poly Mustangs. For the past four years, the Hounds have had the luxury of relying on the sniper rifle attached to Doherty’s right arm and dynamite in her bat to lead them to low-scoring, low-stress victories. With Doherty officially in college, Atascadero was expecting 2021 to be a sort of transition year, but don’t tell them that as they are 7-3 on the season and undefeated in the Mountain League.
“It is totally supposed to be a transition year, but I told them that we are going to shock the world because teams aren’t thinking we are going to do stuff, but we still can because we are still learning,” AHS head softball coach Darrin Traverso told the Atascadero News. “That’s the thing about this team is that we are always learning. Last year, it was like, just put Bailey [Doherty] out there, and as long as we are decent, we will be fine. Now, everybody has to be good and play well, so we are getting better.”
Atascadero entered this season with an incredibly young team, almost certainly the youngest in the Mountain League, with only five upperclassmen currently playing (three seniors and two health juniors). With such a young team, the Hounds have made some mistakes, which was to be expected, but it has been their ability to learn from them that has the orange and grey faithful excited about this season and especially the future.
Wednesday night, the Hounds faced off in the first of a three-game series with the SLO Tigers. Atascadero would cruise to a 10-5 victory on the evening but, of the 21 outs in the game, 12 of them came via balls hit to the third basemen. The Tigers starting pitcher threw slower than they were used to. After working on staying back at practice on Thursday and Friday, the Hounds came out Saturday and only made four outs to the third basemen in a doubleheader.
As the Hounds have become more comfortable in the box, their power has begun to show. Atascadero hit three home runs on Saturday, including a grand slam by freshman third basemen Carmen Burell. In fact, it is the freshman bats that supply most of the power for the Greyhounds, as Olivia Moscardi blasted a long ball in the first game Saturday morning, which gives her two on the season.
“Those are our little freshman, and that’s really where our power comes from in our lineup,” Traverso added.
Defensively, the Hounds have relied on the arm of senior Mia Perry, who has been excellent with a 6-0 record and a 1.08 earned run average in 39 innings. While they have experience in the circle, the entire infield behind Perry is composed of underclassmen. Freshmen Burell and Moscardi play third and shortstop while sophomores Eva Lohayza and Bella Gibbins occupy second and first base.
The Hounds have four series left in this season and will need to grow up quickly if they want to remain one of the top teams in the Mountain League. Starting on Wednesday, Atascadero will play a three-game series with Arroyo Grande (who is 8-2 this season), followed by series against Templeton, Paso Robles, and Righetti.
While inexperience might bring about some mistakes this season, it also has breathed life into the program and a culture that feels more free and fun-loving. That is not to say that the previous teams did not have fun, but they were also burdened with the pressures that come with expectations. The 2021 girls entered the season with a goal to compete while learning, and if they stay together and keep progressing, they could really shake up the Mountain League this season.