Center Makensey Druckman from the Santa Monica High School girls varsity softball team steps on home plate while the rest of her teammates come out to celebrate after Druckman hit a homerun in the bottom of the 6 inning to give SAMO a 2-1 lead over the La-Canada High School girls varsity softball team during Samo’s 2nd round division 4 southern section playoff game vs La-Canada at Memorial Park in Santa Monica on Tuesday May 24th 2016 as SAMO hosted La-Canada and won 2-1 to advance to the third round.

Entering the postseason, expectations weren’t particularly high for the Santa Monica High softball team.

It had a new coaching staff, it lost an Ocean League game for the first time in more than a decade and fell short of winning the conference title.

Yet the Vikings proved their doubters wrong over the last two weeks, reaching the CIF Southern Section Division 4 semifinals for the third time in four years. Their run came to an end Tuesday afternoon in a 2-1 loss to Torrance-North at Memorial Park in Santa Monica.

“Nobody thought we would make it this far,” co-coach Kaile Nakao said. “I’m proud of the way we kept fighting all season long, especially at the end.”

An RBI single in the fifth inning was the difference for North in the tightly contested semifinal. After giving up a solo home run in the first inning, Samohi forced a 1-1 tie thanks to a pair of singles in the third inning. But the Vikings couldn’t muster another run, wasting their final three outs on a double play and an easily handled pop-up.

“It was a tough game, but the girls played well,” Nakao said. “I wanted to keep them loose and not be so tense. It was just a couple things here and there.”

North advanced to the June 4 title game to face rival Torrance, which defeated La Quinta in the other semifinal.

Nakao, who played collegiate softball in Hawaii, knew what it would take to advance deep in the postseason well before taking the helm of the Vikings program. A 2010 Samohi alumna who played under former coach Debbie Skaggs, she hit a game-winning home run in the quarterfinals as a senior that year as she led the team to its first-ever section title.

The Vikings began this year’s postseason with a 1-0 victory over Ventura-Buena on the road May 19, when the only run was scored in the seventh inning. They advanced despite producing just three hits.

The shutout propelled the team into the second round, where it eked out a 2-1 win over La Canada on May 24 at Memorial Park. After scoring a run in the first inning thanks to a couple La Canada errors, Samohi (16-9) pulled ahead for good on a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning.

In the quarterfinals May 26, the Vikings didn’t want to make a 60-mile journey for nothing. They were able to dispatch Palmdale-Knight in an 8-2 victory on the road, holding their opponent scoreless after the first inning. It was a particularly impressive victory for Samohi considering Knight (26-4), which went undefeated in conference play, had only three losses entering the game.

Samohi’s postseason run followed a bittersweet showing in the Ocean League, where it outscored opponents 77-24 over 10 games and finished second in the standings. But its cherished 120-plus-game conference winning streak came to an end April 26 in a 5-1 loss to El Segundo, the eventual league champion.

“We definitely wanted to keep the streak alive,” Nakao said. “Now we’ve just got to start a new one.”

Perhaps Samohi had the last laugh, though, as El Segundo was ousted by Torrance-West in the first round of the playoffs.

The Vikings will lose seniors Alexis Carter, Ashley Rakuljic, Meghan Staib and Maia Ramirez-Beaver to graduation. Carter summed up the team’s campaign after its loss to North.

“She said she didn’t know how the season was going to turn out,” Nakao said. “She was proud of everybody for the way we were able to come together, especially at the end, and make this run.”

Samohi was one of three local softball teams to reach the playoffs this year. St. Monica Catholic fell to Lompoc in the second round of the Division 5 bracket, while Crossroads was eliminated by Downey-Calvary Chapel in the opening round of Division 6.