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In the first 20 minutes, Arroyo Grande girls softball came out swinging – and built an early eight-run lead before cruising to the 15-0 shutout victory over Pioneer Valley on Tuesday, which was called off in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Sam Oliver started the snowball effect right away, as the Eagles’ leadoff batter pounded a ground ball that got her to first. From there, Sara Eguiluz smashed a sacrifice that drove Oliver home for the first run of the game.

And that ignited the Arroyo Grande rout.

Natalie Parrish blasted a base hit RBI to make it 2-0. Kaycie Bozarth then hit a double that drove another Eagle runner home to make it 3-0. Kacie Burger came up to power a triple and drive another teammate home – then Bri Giordano, Oliver and Lauren Schaffer tacked on their RBIs to put the Eagles (10-2, 4-1 in the PAC 8) up 8-0.

Head coach John Welch said fast starts has become a point of emphasis for AGHS softball during practice.

“It’s something we’ve been working on,” Welch said. “In our previous game, we didn’t get the job done. We worked on that from hitting, getting the ball out the way and moving our runners. I told all of them after the game ‘That was a phenomenal first inning.’

“They’re a very solid group. We’ve had games where we’ve had a tremendous start. They wanted to show everyone what they could do.”

Welch credited Oliver for helping jump start the Eagles’ rout.

“Oliver came up and did her job, then it snowballed from there,” Welch said. “My No. 4 batter Bri Sa also came through and so did Julie Lewis. From one to nine in that inning, they worked on what we needed to work on from yesterday. It was a team effort.”

Pioneer Valley head coach Ernie Garcia decided to make an immediate switch on the mound, as he pulled starter Vanessa Navarro after one inning and went with Sandra Sanchez the rest of the way.

Sanchez showed promise in the top of the second for the Panthers (4-9, 2-3 in the PAC 8), as she struck out one Eagle batter and didn’t allow a single run during that sequence. But Arroyo Grande added its ninth point in the top of the fourth on a passed ball.

Oliver said that when AGHS gets going at the bat, it gives the Eagles their edge.

“Hitting is obviously infectious,” Oliver said. “But we kept the mental game in mind and we worked really hard at it during practice. We learned from our mistakes and we’re only getting better.”

Sa, who pitched in all the innings for the Eagles, said communication was another dynamic that helped the Eagles prevail against their PAC 8 opponent.

“We started talking a lot more as a team,” Sa said. “So I think that clicked.”

She added that the swinging aspect is capable of setting an early tone for the Eagles.

“Hitting is contagious. If one person goes out and gets a hit, then the next person gets a hit, then the next one and so forth. It’s non-stop,” Sa said.

Arroyo Grande travels to San Luis Obispo to take on the Tigers on Friday at 4:30 p.m. The Panthers will also hit the road and take on Atascadero for another 4:30 p.m. contest. 

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Sports Reporter