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Left Kaile Nakao of the Santa Monica High School Varsity Girls Softball team celebrates with fellow teammate Haliey Sheridan after Nakao crossed the plate after hitting a home run in the top of the ninth inning to give SAMO a 4-3 lead at Palomares Park which is the home field of of Pomona Catholic High School on Thursday May 27th as Pomona Catholic High hosted SAMO during the quarterfinals of the CIF Division 4 southern sectional playoffs in which SAMO won 4-3 in nine innings (photo by Morgan Genser)

POMONA — It may have taken two calendar years and seven innings, but Santa Monica High School’s softball team finally advanced to the semi-finals of the playoffs.

It was the third-straight visit to the quarter finals of the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division 4 playoffs for the Samohi Vikings, but something about this year’s team is different.

On the strength of a solo home run off the bat of Kaile Nakao, Samohi defeated Pomona Catholic, 4-3, on the road Thursday, setting up a semi-final matchup with Torrance High School on Tuesday at home.

“It was a great win for our team,” Samohi Head Coach Debbie Skaggs said. “The girls stayed positive.”

The Vikings scored the game’s first run and led, 1-0, after three and a half innings, but that lead was short lived. Pomona Catholic came out and scored twice in the bottom of the fourth, putting them up, 2-1. The teams exchanged runs in the fifth inning, with the game tied at 3-3 heading into the seventh and final inning.

“It was a struggle a little bit,” Skaggs said. “We made a few mistakes that kept them in the ball game.”

In the top of the seventh, Samohi’s Nakao stepped to the plate and sent a long fly ball over the center fielder’s head and motored around the bases to score the game’s deciding run on an inside the park homer.

“She hit a bomb,” Skaggs said of the blast.

Samohi starting pitcher Celisha Walker, who pitched a complete game, retired the side in the bottom of the seventh to secure the win and send Samohi into uncharted ground.

The semi-final matchup will be the second meeting of the year for Torrance and Samohi. The Vikings won the first game, 3-1, during the El Segundo Tournament, but Skaggs isn’t taking anything for granted.

“It doesn’t make a difference how you played [earlier in the season],” Skaggs said. “It’s all about who’s playing well right now.”

daniela@smdp.com

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