SAMOHI — What does a softball team that didn’t allow a single run during Ocean League play do for an encore?
“I really want to get to the (California Interscholastic Federation) title game,” Head Coach Debbie Skaggs said. “For the girls, that is their goal, too.”
The hard-charging coach didn’t mince words when it came to her aspirations for her club.
The team, which made it to the quarter finals of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs last season before being dispatched by Crescenta Valley, will have to rely on strong pitching and defense if it is to advance deeper into the playoffs, Skaggs said.
The Vikings will move to Division IV this season.
Topping the list of team strengths is junior pitcher Celisha Walker. The reigning Ocean League MVP is expected to lead the way.
“Our strength is our pitching,” Skaggs said. “Our pitcher is much improved.
“Her off-speed stuff is better, she really matured as a player.”
Pitching may be a strength, but that’s not to say that the Vikings don’t have any pop in their lineup.
Fellow junior Kaile Nakao led the team in home runs last season with five and amassed a stellar .433 batting average.
The surprising thing about Nakao’s performance is that it came during an illness-shortened season.
With Nakao back to full strength and catcher Emma Woo returning for her junior season, the offense may be surprisingly strong for Samohi.
Skaggs added that the return of junior Hayley Condon will also spark the team at the plate. She missed all of last season with a broken leg, but healed in time to play travel ball this offseason.
Condon gives much of the credit for her preparedness to the fact that she took part in an offseason league.
“For my [travel] team, the entire summer is like a boot camp,” Condon said. “We practice hard every day.”
The return of herself and Nakao has Condon thinking big things as well.
“I’m really excited to play,” Condon said. “Watching from the dugout isn’t very fun.”
Also expected to make an impact this season are juniors Hailey Sheridan and Holly Elander.
“Our offense is something that could give us an explosion,” Skaggs said. “We have a lot of quick girls and some good bats in the lineup.”
The Vikings will get an opportunity to see what this season may have in store on Tuesday when the team travels to Arizona to take part in the MaxPreps Tournament. Samohi opens against Downey, a team that Skaggs calls “pretty tough.”
Downey, which made it to the semifinals of the Division IV playoffs last season, is traditionally a strong team that figures to give Samohi all that it can handle.
Skaggs, who is in her 22nd year as head coach, will have her powers of concentration challenged this season.
Her son, Tyler Skaggs, is the staff ace for the Samohi baseball team and is garnering attention from major media outlets and pro scouts alike.
She said she will be forced to miss a few softball games this season to watch her son take the mound.
She will look to assistant coaches Dan Ramos and John Heavens to help lead the team in her absence.
“They have been really understanding,” Debbie Skaggs said. “The players have a lot of confidence in John and Dan.
“They are outstanding coaches.”