Ashley Rakuljic raced around the bases in the bottom of the second inning, clearly buoyed by the prospect of coming all the way home on a powerful hit at a venue with no outfield fence.
She apparently didn’t hear coach Debbie Skaggs’ order to slide, though, and the play at the plate was closer than the Santa Monica softball team would have liked.
“I said, ‘You have to get down,'” Skaggs told the junior shortstop as she returned safely to the dugout after the two-run shot, a highlight of the Vikings’ 16-1 drubbing of Beverly Hills on Thursday afternoon at Memorial Park.
Indeed, it seems not much can get Samohi down these days.
After struggling in preseason slate that featured games against elite teams from throughout the region, the Vikings blitzed their first four conference opponents as their quest to defend their CIF Southern Section title continues.
Skaggs, for one, wasn’t worried about her team’s 5-10 record heading into Ocean League action.
“We’ve had a super-tough schedule — we played some of the top teams in Southern California,” she said. “We’re playing for the playoffs. I told the kids, ‘It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. It’s where we’re going to be at the end of the season.'”
Samohi knows exactly how good the end of the season can feel. Last year, it capped a 25-8 campaign with a 3-1 win over Ventura in the Division 4 championship game, which earned the program its second section crown in five seasons.
This year, the Vikings (10-11, 4-0 in the Ocean League) are trying to be even more prepared. Skaggs has shuffled lineups on defense, and several players are tweaking their swings.
“We have the potential if we put it all together,” she said.
The team’s recent postseason success has seemingly overshadowed its sustained dominance in conference play. Entering its anticipated April 28 game against El Segundo at Memorial Park, Santa Monica had won 114 league games in a row — a streak that dates back to 2004.
This season, the Vikings outscored their first four league foes by a combined margin of 53-2.
In their blowout of Beverly Hills, they racked up 16 hits and made offense look easy. They scored four runs in each of the first two innings, pushed across five more in the third inning — including a home run by freshman Marisa Munoz — and added three in the fourth.
Sophomore pitcher Kenedee Jamerson allowed just two hits and one run in five innings.
Seniors headed to collegiate ranks
All four graduating players on Samohi’s roster will continue their softball careers at the next level.
Star pitcher Whitney Jones is heading to the Division I ranks at Rutgers, where she’ll join coach Jay Nelson’s program on a roster that currently features three California products.
The Scarlet Knights, who compete in the Big Ten, had an overall record of 26-14 as of April 23.
Last year, Jones was named player of the year in CIF Southern Section Division 4 after giving up only one earned run in 35 innings pitched in the playoffs. Her performance in the circle powered the Vikings’ recent 16-0 mercy-rule shutout of Culver City.
Standout catcher Annie Quine, meanwhile, will play for Babson College in Massachusetts in the Division III ranks under longtime coach Dave Canan.
The Beavers were 20-15 this season as of April 23, including 9-9 in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference.
Outfielder/first baseman Cayman Hunter is set to play for coach Alison Haehnel at Los Angeles-based Occidental College, which competes in Division III as a member of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Outfielder Carly Condon will also compete in the SCIAC when she joins the team at University of La Verne, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, email@example.com or on Twitter.