MEMORIAL PARK ‚Äî By the end of the first inning, it was clear who would be moving on.
Santa Monica softball put a five spot on the scoreboard in the first frame punctuated by a leadoff home run by junior Sara Garcia that essentially spelled the end of Paloma Valley‚Äôs trip to the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 quarterfinals on Thursday at Memorial Park.
The 8-1 win sends the Samohi Vikings to the division semifinals for the first time since the 2010 season when they won it all.
For head coach Debbie Skaggs, this year‚Äôs squad made up of a number of underclassman, was a year away from competing for another championship. Come to find out, the future may be now.
“This is huge,” Skaggs said. “[The} team already exceeded our standards this year.”
The victory sets up a matchup on the road at Dos Pueblos in Goleta, Calif. The game begins at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday.
After blanking the Paloma Valley Wildcats in the top of the first inning, Samohi wasted little time stirring the pot. After Garcia‚Äôs lead-off homer, the next three Samohi batters loaded the bases for Jamie Hom, who hit an infield sacrifice that scored Annie Quine with the game‚Äôs second run.
With a pair on base, Carly Condon slapped a double to left field that plated two more Vikings. Condon would eventually come around to score on a Ashley Rakuljic single to right.
Samohi would tack on three more runs throughout the game and only let up in the top of the seventh inning when Paloma Valley scratched for a run against mostly reserves.
Garcia finished the afternoon 4-for-4 and scored three times. The first-inning home run was her third in three playoff games and 15th on the season.
After the game, she seemed unfazed by Tuesday‚Äôs outcome. Instead, the fleet-footed shortstop said that the only thing on her mind is hitting the batting cage before Tuesday‚Äôs big game.
“We‚Äôve really come together as a team,” Garcia said. “Hopefully we can keep it going and work hard. But for now, it‚Äôs all about the cages, practice and lots of ice.”
When Samohi wasn‚Äôt racking up runs, sophomore starting pitcher Whitney Jones was shutting down Paloma Valley‚Äôs bats.
She cruised through six innings, scattering just four hits. It wasn‚Äôt until the seventh inning, holding a 8-0 lead, that she let up.
Paloma Valley would breakthrough in the seventh for their lone run, but with the bases loaded with Wildcats, Jones induced a double play to end the game, sending the Vikings into a post-game frenzy.
“My defense backed me up,” Jones said. “I couldn‚Äôt have done it with out them.”