"We all wanted her to be here," Roche added.
With Thompson sidelined for the season, the Tigers' hopes rest with sophomore Lindsay Lugo.
"She can handle it," Witte said. "She's got the right disposition to be a pitcher. She doesn't get up too high or get down too low."
Lugo was masterful for the Tigers, allowing just two hits. She struck out six and did not walk a batter in Imperial's season opener.
Lugo received help from her teammates in the form of good defense and timely hitting.
It was a 1-0 game until the fifth inning, when the Tigers erupted for four insurance runs.
With one out in the fifth Amy Holtz lined a double down the left field line. Rhea Deal followed with a triple to left to score Holtz.
After a second out, Lugo got aboard on an error when the Julian shortstop dropped a pop-up. The miscue allowed Deal to score.
Ashley Melvin then tripled to left field to drive in Lugo and Victoria Mazon capped the rally with a single up the middle to score Melvin.
Imperial scored its first run in the second. Stephanie Ortega led off with a walk and stole second on the next pitch. With two outs, Roche singled to left to drive in Ortega.
In addition to Roche's hits, the Tigers' seven-hit attack featured the triples of Deal and Melvin, the double by Holtz and the single by Mazon.
Witte said one possible reason Imperial waited until the fifth inning to explode offensively was the Tigers were a little nervous.
"We're a young team," she said, noting Imperial starts a freshman at third base (Melanie Medina) and shortstop (Ortega) and sophomores on the mound (Lugo), behind the plate (Holtz) and at first base (Mazon).
Imperial hosts Mountain Empire at 3:15 p.m. Friday.
Holtville 15, Lincoln Academy 5
SAN DIEGO — Lauren Huyler went seven innings and struck out seven as Holtville High's girls softball team thumped host Lincoln Academy 15-5.
Marisela Valenzuela went four-for-six with three RBI.
Holtville (3-0) plays at 3 p.m. Thursday at Calipatria.