IRVINE ‚Äî Last year, the Santa Monica softball team ended their playoff run in disappointment. But they were determined to force a different outcome in 2014.
“We were here last year [and] got our butts kicked,” head coach Debbie Skaggs said. “The girls knew that we had to come out here and not just be happy to be here, but get here and finish business.”
The Vikings easily defeated the Ventura Cougars, 3-1, in the Division IV CIF-SS championship on Saturday, May 31, giving Samohi its second title in five years.
Junior pitcher Whitney Jones struck out three Ventura batters, while senior first baseman Francesca Golick had two RBIs. Senior infielder Marina Coffin had one RBI for the Cougars.
Samohi‚Äôs last division championship was in 2010 when they defeated the North Torrance Saxons, 11-3.
The Viking offense started strong in the bottom of the first inning with senior Sara Garcia smacking a triple into right field, allowing freshman second baseman Jasmine Gomez to score Samohi‚Äôs first run.
With Garcia on third, Golick connected on a Ventura pitch, driving in Garcia for an early 2-0 lead.
Jones said her pitching loosened up after her team was able to build an early advantage.
“It feels much better when you have a little cushion,” Jones said.
The Cougars got on the board in the top of the third inning off an RBI by Coffin. However, Golick responded at the bottom of the inning with her second RBI of the game with the bases loaded. Samohi never looked back.
The Vikings were able to use strong defense to take away any chance of a Ventura comeback. With two outs in the top of the fourth inning, junior infielder Amanda Gilchrist launched a double into deep right center field. But Samohi took a ground ball by Ventura‚Äôs next batter and was able to retire the side.
“There are plays that, if they don‚Äôt make, it could get us into a lot of trouble, into a mess,” Jones said about her team‚Äôs defense. “It definitely takes down the other team and pumps up our mentality, which is just great. I can‚Äôt ask for a better defense. They really helped me this year.”
Skaggs said the team‚Äôs defense is key to their success because of the type of pitcher Jones is.
“We‚Äôre known to be a pretty solid defensive club, and that‚Äôs what we lean on because our pitcher doesn‚Äôt strike out a lot of batters,” Skaggs said.
Despite a slow start, Jones was able to find her pitching groove as the game went on. She said her positioning of the ball is what worked well for her on Saturday.
“I kept the ball low and I kept moving the pitch around, which I think was really effective,” Jones said. “[I] stayed in on some of their hands and took the ball outside when I needed to.”
This year‚Äôs championship came with a lot of growth among the team, Jones said.
“We had a really tough season this year before we got to CIF, and then once CIF came, we really gelled together as a team, just like we did last year,” Jones said. “But this year, we had a lot more talent and we were just a stronger team together and we just really had teamwork, which is what got us here.”