Former Viking Marybell Moreno, now head coach for the Santa Monica High School fast-pitch softball team, poses for a photo as her team does 'Greeks' during an off-season workout on Friday afternoon at Samohi's Greek Theatre. (photo by Brandon Wise)

SAMOHI — If at first you don’t succeed, keep looking.

That’s the maxim Santa Monica High School’s Daniel Escalera, the athletic director, had to stick with when his first choice for a new softball coach didn’t pan out.

For the second time in recent weeks, Samohi has announced a new head coach for a team that is the returning California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division 4 champions, the first title in the sport in school history. Former junior varsity coach and Samohi alumna Marybell Moreno was named as the replacement for Debbie Skaggs, who led the team for 24 seasons.

“For me, I have big shoes to fill,” Moreno said. “But, coming from the program itself gives me perspective.”

Aside from playing for Samohi, Moreno played softball for Santa Monica College after graduation and later coached a number of club teams before returning to the school to coach JV.

The selection of Moreno late last week comes on the heels of the appointment of Natalie Adame to lead the program. Escalera said that the two parties couldn’t come to terms on the contract and had to resume his search. He ultimately settled on Moreno, who graduated from Samohi in 1996, after playing for Skaggs.

The decision to go with Moreno was an easy one for Escalera, who said that she was one of the finalists for the job.

“It was a tough decision to begin with,” Escalera said. “They were both very good.”

For former coach Skaggs, the move to appoint Moreno was welcomed. She said that Moreno has been an asset to the program dating back to her playing days.

“She’s going to do just fine,” Skaggs said. “She’s going to carry out our legacy for sure.”

Moreno takes over a defending champion, but has lost a group of seniors that propelled the team to new heights last season. Gone are Kaile Nakao, Hailey Sheridan, Emma Woo, Celisha Walker, Holly Elander and Hayley Condon, all of which were pivotal in Samohi winning the title last season.

Despite those losses, the team does return starters Kelsey Hom, Meghan Bradley, Stephanie Ordaz and pitcher Natalie Abel, who were contributors to last year’s champs.

Hom, an outfielder, told the Daily Press recently that senior leadership would be key to making a smooth transition to a new coach. That transition should be made easier by the fact that Moreno has coached a number of the current varsity team’s roster, a fact that Skaggs is happy with.

“She’s a go-getter,” Skaggs said. “I know the kids will play for her, she’ll be an outstanding coach.”

Considering that Moreno is a walk-on coach who will not teach at the school, Skaggs has committed to leading the team’s sixth period conditioning class this season. It wasn’t immediately clear if Skaggs, who still teaches at the school, would continue with that next season, but for the time being she’s just happy to keep the gig in the Samohi family.

“It helps that she knows a lot of the teachers here,” Escalera said. “She knows the whole system, that’s a big plus.”

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