Dos Pueblos denied again by Santa Monica in CIF semis

Alison Milam - Dos Pueblos Softball

Ali Milam had one of DP’s three hits in the semifinal loss against Santa Monica.

The Dos Pueblos hitters were baffled by the “secret pitch” from Santa Monica’s Whitney Jones in Tuesday’s CIF Division 4 softball semifinal game.

Jones allowed the Chargers only three hits, and Ashley Rakuljic’s two-run homer was all the run support she would need as the Vikings scored a 4-0 victory to deny DP a trip to the final for the second straight year.

Jones fooled Charger hitters with a pitch that tailed away as it crossed the plate.

“That’s a drop ball,” said Jones, who struck out five and induced nine ground-ball outs. “It goes right in and tails off on the right side of the plate. That’s the secret pitch. That’s the key.”

Santa Monica coach Debbie Skaggs praised Jones for her stellar pitching performance.

“When I called the pitch, she was hitting those locations. It was awesome,” said Skaggs. “We work on location, location, location; keep them off balance and let our defense do the work.”

Dos Pueblos coach Jon Uyesaka credited Jones, but he said his “players need to make adjustments. They know how to do that. We just couldn’t get the bat square on the ball. (We hit) lots of soft ground balls and popups. The timing was off.”

In this year’s playoff run, the Chargers (23-7) have been doing most of their damage at the plate in the late innings. But it didn’t happen against Jones and Santa Monica.

“We can’t just wait till the last few innings like we’ve been doing and expect to hit a good pitcher like that and score runs. It’s too difficult to do,” said Uyesaka.

DP starter Lani Evans threw blanks for three innings before the Vikings got to her in the fourth. Vikings clean-up hitter Frankie Golick led off the inning with a solid single to right center and Rakuljic followed with a towering home run over the fence in left field for a 2-0 lead.

“She’s hit a lot of home runs this year. For a little girl, she’s got some pop,” said Skaggs.

“I think it was a fastball,” said Rakuljic. “I was just trying to connect on it and hit it how I could.”

Uyesaka said the pitch was a mistake on his part.

“I called the wrong pitch,” he said. “(Evans) threw hard 3-4 pitches in a row and (was) up in the count 1-2, and I still threw a hard pitch and I should have called a breaking pitch, change-up or something. That was a mistake. That one is on me.”

Evans bounced back and retired the side, getting an assist from catcher Jade Sinskul. With one out and a runner at first, Sinskul gunned down Santa Monica’s Kenedee Jamerson, who was attempting to steal second base. Sinskul also threw out a runner in the seventh.

Evans pitched out of jam in the fifth, getting Golick to strike out looking with runners at second and third.

“She had a really mean change-up, so you got to give her credit,” said Skaggs of Evans. “She was keeping us off balance.”

Evans allowed five hits and struck out five.

The Vikings (23-8) loaded the bases with one out in the sixth and scored two runs. A Jones ground out to DP second baseman Monica Salas brought in a run and a single to left by Bella Lilly scored the other to make it 4-0.

DP shortstop Sam Sander then made the defensive play of the game. With runners at first and third, she raced after a popup behind third base in foul territory, made a diving catch, popped up and gunned a strike to Sinskul, who tagged out Jamerson to completed the double play.

“It definitely had to be a quick one if we were going to make both outs,” said Sander of her throw to the plate.

Uyesaka couldn’t believe Sander made the play.

“I was starting to think, ‘Why did you catch that for (because) they’re going to score.’” he said. “I can’t believe she popped up and gunned it. That’s a heavy throw for her. That’s a pretty good distance and she hit it right on the spot. That couldn’t have been a better throw; a great tag and receive by Jade, too. It was a bang-bang play. It could have gone either way, but the throw and the catch were right there and that’s why we got the call. It was an incredible play.”

The Chargers, however, couldn’t follow it up with the same late-inning heroics they’d experienced in playoff wins over Monrovia and Beaumont. Jones retired them in order in the sixth and seventh innings to end their season.

“We have a lot of juniors on this current team right now, so next year will be big year for us,” Uyesaka said. “I told the girls to keep their heads up. They had a great season. They can’t let one game defeat them like this.”