The Santa Monica High softball program has reached such prominence that the Lady Vikings lose only to the very best teams on their schedule.
After winning two games in the CIF playoffs, the Ocean League champions were eliminated by Crescenta Valley High, 3-0, on Tuesday, May 22.
Samohi had defeated California High in the first round, 6-0 and Sonora in the second, 3-1.
It was another remarkable season for the Vikings, coached by Debbie Skaggs for the 20th year.
Not only did Samohi compile a 23-9 record, it did so with a young team. Most regulars were freshmen and sophomores and the roster included only 3 seniors.
With the nucleus returning, more success is likely next season.
Samohi’s softball team hasn’t lost an Ocean League game in four years and has won the championship six straight times. The overall record last season was 26-4. The previous year it was 21-6.
The majority of losses occur in tournaments, several in other states against elite competition. Playoff victims in the recent past include Burbank, California High of Whittier and Long Beach Millikan, a heralded foe that came to Santa Monica in 2006, built a 5-0 lead and left with a 7-6 loss.
The team’s alumni include several players now doing well in college, including Christine Foley of Loyola Marymount, who was MVP of the West Coast Conference.
I asked Jim Hall of Santa Monica Girls Fast Pitch Softball how many of the Samohi players came up from the city’s youth program.
“Almost all of them.” was his reply. “A lot of these girls played on our 8-and Under, 10-and-Under and 12-and-Under teams. At 14 several played on traveling teams. Then they become re-united at Samohi and they’ve played so much softball they’re advanced enough to play well on the varsity in high school. And Debbie and her staff do a great job.”
Star pitcher Celisha Walker, a sophomore, did not come through the local youth program but many of the Lady Vikings did.
Freshmen who played prominemtly this season were Kelsey Hom, Meghan Bradley, Danielle Hearn and Gabi Leveque. The sophomore group included power-hitting catcher Emma Woo, Walker, 2007 Ocean League MVP Kaile Nakao, Cianna Guerrero, Synthia Perez-Ramirez, Hailey Sheridan and Danielle Zavala. Holly Elander, Yaneth Guzman and Andrea Linares were juniors. The seniors were Crystal Perez, Holly Hoskinson and Alyson Herman.
The newcomers are well known even before they reach Samohi. For example, word spread at Samohi football games that a phenom was arriving to pitch for the softball team and might be the league’s best right away. That was Walker, who proceeded to win 15 games.
And word similarly spread that a few incoming ninth graders might crack the starting lineup based on their play in youth leagues. That also turned out to be true.
Next season may be especially trying for Skaggs because her attention is divided when her son, Tyler, pitches for the Samohi baseball team.
In several late-season games Debbie received text messages throughout the afternoon on Tyler’s progress while coaching her game. After her game ended, she then rushed over to the baseball field to watch his last few innings.
Tyler Skaggs, the Ocean League MVP, is expected to be a high choice in baseball’s June, 2009 draft and the games he pitches in his senior season will be closely scrutinized.