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(photo by Wendy Perl)

SAMOHI — Seven down, three to go.

Santa Monica High School’s softball team crushed Ocean League rival Beverly Hills, 16-0, on Tuesday, improving its record to a perfect 7-0 in league with just three games to play.

Leading the way was junior pitcher Natalie Abel, who tossed five innings of one-hit ball. She also struck out seven Beverly Hills Normans en route to the victory, which was called after five innings due to the mercy rule.

“We started off well,” Abel said. “Everybody kept rallying — that’s what we’re working on.”

Oh, that and keeping opponents off the scoreboard. For the seventh time in seven games the Samohi Vikings shut out a league opponent. The Vikings have outscored the league, 95-0.

“Our goal is to not allow a run in league,” Samohi Head Coach Debbie Skaggs said. “We need to keep this momentum for [the playoffs],”

Despite the final score, the game began slowly. The Vikings scored once in the first inning on a sacrifice fly ball by Kaile Nakao, scoring leadoff hitter Meghan Bradley.

Samohi (20-5 overall) struck again in the second inning on Hayley Condon’s solo home run to left field, putting the Vikings up 2-0 after two. Condon finished the day 2-for-2 with a dinger and four runs batted in.

With the game close, the Vikings broke the game open in the third inning. The first six Samohi batters scored, with another four scoring later in the inning.

With the score 12-0 after three innings, the only question was whether or not Abel would toss a no-hitter.

She cruised four-and-a-third innings before the Normans’ Tamar Rotstein singled into short center field breaking up the no-hit bid.

“These guys are too good,” Beverly Hills Head Coach Len Mitchell said. “We were lucky to get a hit.”

The last time the two teams played, Samohi’s Celisha Walker threw a no-hitter, which gave Mitchell and his Normans a humble goal on Tuesday.

“At least we got that one hit,” Mitchell said. “All we can do is wish them well in the playoffs.”

The Vikings’ road to the postseason has three tests remaining with the next game coming Thursday at home against Hawthorne (19-5 overall, 4-2 in league). The two teams met last week with Samohi coming away with a 11-0 win. Hawthorne took on Morningside on Tuesday, but the score was not available at presstime.

The final three games are pivotal for Samohi as they pursue a high seed in the California Interscholastic Southern Section playoffs. With seven seniors on the roster, Skaggs and co. are hopeful that this year’s edition of Vikings softball has the goods to advance deep into the postseason.

“We hope to finally get past the quarter-finals,” Abel said.

With Skaggs, coaching in her 24th season, expected to retire after the season, the Vikings see this as their best chance in years to win the school’s first title in the sport.

“This is the year for us,” Abel said. “People are nervous, but we think we can do this.”

daniela@smdp.com