SFT: Chargers fall to Santa Monica in 11 innings

Dos Pueblos and Santa Monica have won CIF softball titles, so each program knows it takes some breaks during a playoff run to reach the championship game.

Santa Monica got the breaks on Tuesday in a Division 4 semifinal game at DP. The Vikings used a lead-off single, two stolen bases and a wild pitch in the 11th inning to score the winning run and beat the Chargers 3-2 on a wind-swept afternoon.

The loss — DP’s first at home this season — ended a stellar campaign for the Chargers, who were trying to reach the final for the second time in three years. They finish at 24-4-1. Santa Monica, the Division 4 champion in 2010, advances to the final with a 20-10 record.

“It was a great battle, it was a great game, I just want to be on the other end of it,” DP coach Jon Uyesaka said. “Some of those hops and some of those spins on the ball, a break or two here and there, that’s all it took.”

After giving up two runs on four hits in the second inning, DP starter Veronika Gulvin shut down the Vikings. They did put runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and 10th, but each time the sophomore came up with big pitches to thwart the scoring threat.

“She hung in there,” said DP senior catcher Haley Peterson.

Gulvin threw 193 pitches. She struck out 16, gave up nine hits and walked two.

The 11th was going to be Gulvin’s last inning of work, and she started the inning by giving up a single to Jamie Hom. Pinch-runner Denise Reynoso took advantage of the wind blowing in from center field by stealing second and swiping third base on a pitch in the dirt.

“We knew it was going to be hard for their catcher to throw in the wind. It was hard for our catcher to throw in the wind,” Santa Monica coach Debbie Skaggs said. “We have a couple of girls who are speedy so we were taking some chances.”

Reynoso’s speed enabled her to come home on a wild pitch that just so happened to hit a backstop fence post and bounce away from a scrambling Peterson.

Uyesaka noted it was the only wild pitch allowed by Gulvin in the last eight games she’s thrown.

“Just real unlucky,” he said.

Peterson said she had a bad feeling after calling for a rise ball.

“I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been catching since I was 8 or 9, I always get this kind of premonition, if you will, before I call a pitch of what will work and what won’t,” she explained. “As soon as I called the pitch, I had a little bit of: ‘Oh, shoot …’ It’s too late to change, there’s nothing I can do about it, so we just got to go with it.”

Skaggs lauded Reynoso for her alertness on the basepaths to score the deciding run.

“Give credit to Denise, she read that ball in the dirt and got a good jump; that was heads-up by her, and to go on the wild pitch.

“That’s a heartbreaker to lose that way,” said Skaggs.

Dos Pueblos took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. With one out, Monica Salas belted a double to the fence in right-center field and scored on a liner to center by Lani Evans.

Santa Monica responded in third with two runs. Julie Munoz opened the inning with a double to left and advanced to third on an infield hit by Annie Quine. Marissa Padilla brought home Munoz when liner tipped off the outstretched glove of DP shortstop Chloe Madill for a single. Carly Condon followed with a single to left to score Reynoso, who was running for Quine. Padilla also tried to score on the play but she was thrown out at the plate by left fielder Agnetta Cleland.

After being retired in order in the fourth by Santa Monica sophomore pitcher Whitney Jones, the Chargers scratched out the tying run in the fifth. Evans drew a lead-off walk, pinch-runner Lauren Marmo went to second on a sacrifice by Jade Sinskul, reached third on a wild pitch and scored on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by pinch hitter Sam Sander.

The CIF champions of 2010 and 2011 then battled through five tense, scoreless innings. DP had a great chance to win it in the eighth. With Ali Milam at second and Gulvin at first, Monica Salas hit a grounder to second that was bobbled. Milam hesitated as she rounded third, got caught in a rundown and was eventually tagged out.

Uyesaka took responsibility for the play. “I actually held her up and I shouldn’t have,” he said. “I really didn’t read that ball off the glove as well as I thought I did.”

Alyssa Lewis came up and ripped a high drive to left field that looked like a sure run-scoring hit. But Hom, Santa Monica’s left fielder, raced over and made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch to rob Lewis.

“That was an awesome catch,” Skaggs said of Hom’s defensive gem. “She really stepped up and saved the game for us right there.”

“That was a really nice catch; the wind held it up,” Uyesaka said. “Left field was essentially nonexistent today because the wind was so strong. We just couldn’t stay inside the ball long enough to hit to right.”

Uyesaka gave props to Jones, who gave up five hits, struck out nine and threw 161 pitches.

“She was a good pitcher, one of the better pitchers we’ve seen this year,” he said.

While it was a heartbreaking way to end the season, Peterson said she was proud of the team and there were no excuses for the loss.

“I was on the team that won CIF two years ago, so I really wanted that again,” she said. “I wanted to be on the team that has a win as their last game of season. That would have been awesome.”

She added: “You can’t blame the wind in a game like that, especially against a team that’s a good quality team. Any team can beat anybody on any given day, we were just unlucky on that front today.”