IRVINE — In a game with so many subplots, there is one thing that is certain: Samohi’s softball team is a CIF champion.
Santa Monica High School won its first-ever California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section title in the sport on Saturday during a 11-3 rout of the North Torrance Saxons in the Division 4 final at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine. Samohi’s Emma Woo hit a deciding grand slam in the fifth inning to power the Vikings to victory.
“I’m just speechless,” Samohi Head Coach Debbie Skaggs said.
Saturday was the end to a season that has seen its share of emotion. The game was the last for Samohi’s Skaggs, who has coached the Vikings for 24 seasons. It was also played in tribute to late Athletic Director Norm Lacy, who passed away a week prior. The pressure was also on a North team that was attempting to win a third-straight title in Division 4.
All of those facts collided Saturday as the Vikings took the field with plenty of motivation.
The Vikings wasted little time in the first inning as leadoff hitter Haley Condon hit a playable ground ball to North third baseman Amanda Wondergem, who committed a fielding error on the play. After a sac bunt by Woo advanced Condon to second, Kalie Nakao slapped a single to right field, scoring Condon and giving the Vikings a 1-0 lead.
North finally caught and passed Samohi in the fourth inning as Sydney Halleen and Vanessa Gonzalez crossed the plate giving the Saxons a short-lived 2-1 lead.
That’s when Woo came up with arguably the biggest hit in school history.
With the bases loaded with Vikings, Woo came up with two outs in the fifth inning and quickly fell behind in the count. With two strikes and no balls, the senior catcher worked North starting pitcher Molly Winders to a full count before crushing a grand slam well beyond the fence in right/center field.
“She finally gave me a pitch,” Woo said. “She probably didn’t want to walk me. It was fat. I knew it was out when I hit it.”
The Vikings went on to score six more runs in the sixth inning, giving starting pitcher Celisha Walker more than enough support as the senior, bound to play for New Mexico State next season, pitched a complete game for her fifth victory of the playoffs.
The game marked the final time the team’s core of seniors would take the field together. The Vikings are graduating four seniors (Nakao, Walker, Woo and Condon) who will play for NCAA Division 1 teams next season. Joining that group are seniors, Holly Elander, Hailey Sheridan and Andrea Linares.
“These guys will move on to the next chapter in their lives,” Skaggs said. “But, nobody can take this from them.”