This season's Santa Monica High softball team is not as experienced as the one that won the CIF championship two years ago, but these Vikings are motivated to make some history of their own.
They got off to a most impressive start Thursday afternoon, exploding for five runs in the third inning and 10 more in the fourth inning on their way to crushing Westminster La Quinta 21-1 at Memorial Park in a Southern Section Division 4 first round game at Memorial Park.
There is no "mercy" rule in the Southern Section playoffs but if ever a situation cried for it, this was one. Not only were the Aztecs overmatched by Santa Monica sophomore pitcher Sara Garcia, they also committed numerous errors to give Santa Monica extra at-bats—and the Ocean League winners made their opponents pay for each and every miscue.
"It's very unusual for a playoff game to be so one-sided," Samohi Coach Debbie Skaggs admitted. "Even when we won CIF two years ago we never had a game like this. The next round will be a lot tougher, that's for sure."
Santa Monica (16-13) will take on third-seeded Dos Pueblos of Goleta (24-3) in the second round Tuesday. The Chargers beat Maranatha 7-2 in their opener Thursday. Since both Santa Monica and Dos Pueblos hosted first-round games, a coin flip will decide which team gets home field advantage.
The Vikings gave their crowd plenty to cheer about against La Quinta, which took a 1-0 lead when pitcher Krissy Brewer worked a full count with two outs and blooped the ball into right field to score Andrea Garcia from third base.
Sara Garcia led off the bottom of the first with a single, took second on a wild pitch and stole third on a passed ball. Garcia scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Rachel Paris. Then, in the second inning, Jennifer Eyler doubled to drive in pinch runner Denise Reynoso and Paris walked with the bases loaded to force home Eyler for a 3-1 lead.
The Aztecs (11-12), who finished in third place in the Garden Grove League, threatened to score with two outs in the third when Brewer singled to center, but Garcia gathered Carly Condon's relay throw and fired a bullet to catcher Annie Quine, who tagged out a sliding runner at the plate.
"That was all instinct," Garcia said. "Any other throw and the runner would've been safe. I had to hit her [Quine] dead-on."
La Quinta Coach Jeff Nadeau pointed to that play as the turning point.
"If we score there, we're right back in the game," he said. "We don't have a shut-down pitcher and that makes it hard when we fall behind so not getting that run hurt us. Then, the dropped pop fly in the bottom of the inning really opened the floodgates. You can't give teams additional opportunities."
Kelly Ricard led off the third with a single and Marissa Padilla reached on an error, moving Ricard to third base. Quine's base hit scored Ricard and moved Padilla to third, but after Monica Norris lined out to shortstop and Eyler struck out it appeared the Aztecs would escape. However, Arielle Casillas walked to load the bases and Garcia's pop up was dropped behind second and all three runners scored. Garcia sprinted home from third on an errant throw and, just like that, the lead was 8-1.
"As the captain and the only senior, my role is to set an example," said Ricard, who plays third base now but started at second base on the Vikings' 2010 CIF championship team. "It's a totally different group that's still learning and still growing up. We're young, but we can be very good when we're all on our game. We just have to come ready to play. Next year and the year after that, watch out!"
In the circle, Garcia struck out six batters in four innings before giving way to freshman Whitney Jones, who finished with four strikeouts of her own. Garcia now has 84 strikeouts in 82 innings pitched this season.
"I didn't have to work a lot of pitches—I was mostly using fastballs," Garcia said. "In games like this you just want it to be over. When everyone's hitting and when I'm pitching well we can beat anyone."
Condon, Casillas and Garcia all had two-run singles as Samo batted around in the fourth, capitalizing on four Aztecs errors to score 10 runs and increase the lead to 18-1. In an effort to keep the scoring down, Skaggs told baserunners to intentionally leave the bag early so they would be called out.
In the sixth, Julie Munoz tripled and scored on Quine's infield single, Stephanie Reynaga singled to drive in Reynoso and Jones singled to score Jamie Hom for the final run. Jones retired the Aztecs in order in the seventh.
"Most of the games we've lost, we've beaten ourselves," Skaggs said. "We made too many mistakes. On their run, we got a bad jump on the ball. Sara wasn't on today. She didn't have command of her pitches but she's only a sophomore and Whitney [Jones] is a freshman. They are just scratching the surface of how good they can be."
CIF-SS DIVISION 4 FIRST ROUND
Score by Innings
5 6 7 -- R H E
0 0 0 -- 1 4 7Santa Monica
100 3 x -- 21 17 1
Records: La Quinta 11-12; Santa Monica 16-13.