One year ago, the Atascadero Greyhounds steamrolled their way through their regular season and league schedule to a 19-8 record, a share of the Mountain League title, and into the Central Section Division 1 semifinal before losing a heart-breaker to Stockdale, 1-0.
To many onlookers, star player and recent Cal Poly signee Bailey Doherty was the leader of the team but in the clubhouse, it was the Hounds’ six seniors, Claire Lohayza, Gabrielle Hinzo, Taylor Herzig, Katie Perry, Bailee Crawford and Shelby Moody, who policed the team and kept the spirits high while Doherty struck out batter after batter in the circle.
This season, all of those seniors are gone and Atascadero has entered into a bit of a rebuilding phase as this is the youngest team head coach Darin Traverso has ever fielded in his eight years as the Greyhounds skipper.
Atascadero enters this season with four seniors on the roster but with only two returners who contributed significant minutes to the team a year ago, the aforementioned Doherty and right fielder Riley Jones.
“I have a lot of sophomores and freshmen with only two juniors,” Traverso said. “I couldn’t even tell you my entire starting infield yet. Our starting outfield is getting close. My batting order is getting there but really only because we have 11 or 12 players that are healthy.”
However, even with a relatively uncertain lineup to this point, this Greyhound team has a feel to it like the Templeton Eagle girls team from a year ago that ended as CIF Central Section Division 3 Champions on the arm of standout pitcher Ashley Daughtery, who now pitches in the SEC, in that they can just produce a few runs a game, their ace should take care of the rest.
Since taking over the starting pitching spot for Atascadero her sophomore year, Doherty is an astounding 40-4 since. In her sophomore campaign, Doherty posted a .75 earned run average while recording 282 strikeouts. After verbally committing to Cal Poly that summer, the blonde fireballer came out in her junior season and went 20-2 as a starter posting a .89 ERA.
Coming into her senior season, Doherty has already recorded 10 no-hitters and five perfect games but will need to be even better this year if she hopes to get the Hounds back in the CIF Division 1 semifinal this year.
“We have used that [Templeton last year] kind of as a little bit of a model in that we said, ‘look, we don’t want her to put all the pressure on herself [Doherty] to do everything, we need to allow the team to catch up and that is what we are doing.’ We are doing a lot of coaching, a lot of trying to get people into the right positions and we realize that we may not win all of our games this year but at the end of the season we will certainly be better than we were at the beginning of the season.”
One thing that will change for Doherty this year is her spot in the batting order. For the first time in her Greyhound career the ace has moved into the lead-off spot that had been occupied by Claire Lohayza the past few seasons.
“Darin [Traverso] wants me to see the ball as much as I can and if someone else can get on then he is hopeful I can produce something,” Doherty said of her new role on offense.“ It’s nothing special by any means, I don’t think, it’s just for more at-bats.”
Behind Doherty the team will rely on a collection of girls starting with Jones in right field, junior third baseman Mia Perry and freshman shortstop Eva Lohayza, younger sister of Claire Lohayza who is now starting at third base for the Cuesta Cougars.
Jones, who spent last year batting in the No. 5 spot, could move into the cleanup role in her senior season after recording 18 hits a year ago and driving in 10 runs.
Through the first four games of the season, the Hounds are 0-4 as they go through their growing pains while the coaching staff figures out exactly how the lineup is going to fit together.
“Next week we are going to Bakersfield and that is when I really count on the season actually starting for us,” Traverso said. “Next week I will start minimizing the amount of people that I move around and settle in.”
While the coaching staff is worried about putting together the perfect offensive and defensive lineup, the Greyhound seniors are more interested in helping their younger teammates grow and adapt to the speed of the varsity game.
“I just think that this year is all about working together and trying to teach the younger girls how to get to a good year with more wins than losses,” Jones said. “This year we won’t be winning as much as we did last year, of course, but we are going to be at least growing together and teaching them how to get there.”
Atascadero will be on the road participating in the preseason tournament portion of their schedule for most of March but will return home on March 25 for the Mountain League home opener when they host the San Luis Obispo Tigers.