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.”