It was about as strong a start to this postseason as Venice High Coach softball coach Jessica Ruiz could have asked for. The host Gondoliers plated five runs in the first inning and never looked back, shutting out Torres 21-0 Tuesday in the opening round of the City Section Invitational playoffs.
Junior left-hander Milana Casillas pitched her first no-hitter of the season, allowing only three walks, as the Gondoliers pounded 16 hits and drew eight walks to stake her to an early lead. Venice, seeded 13th, travels to Los Angeles to take on No. 4 Franklin in the second round Thursday afternoon. The Panthers had a first-round bye.
There is no 10-run 'mercy' rule in the playoffs, but the plate umpire and both head coaches mutually agreed to halt Tuesday's game after the Toros were retired in the top of the sixth inning. Casillas struck out six Torres batters and still had plenty of pop in her pitches in the final frame.
"I definitely could've finished the game had it gone seven," Casillas said. "I'm used to pitching a lot of innings ever since I was a freshman and in travel ball. I've thrown lots of doubleheaders so this was nothing."
Casillas likes her team's chances in the playoffs.
"I think we have a good chance of going pretty far," she said. "We're tough to beat when we play our best."
Freshmen Samantha Soto and Kira Wessels each went four-for-four and scored four runs against the 20th-seeded Toros. Venice nearly batted around twice in the fourth inning, scoring 10 runs to build an insurmountable 18-0 lead. The key hit was a bases-loaded triple down the right field line by junior captain Ana Ayala that cleared the bases.
"The key was not losing concentration, no matter what the score" Soto said. "I was using these at-bats to practice my swing because it's all muscle memory. We're a good team but sometimes we get lazy. We'll need to come out pretty hard against Franklin."
Junior infielder Lauren Spurlin's two-RBI single in the fifth inning closed out the scoring. Torres, which finished second in the Central League behind Hollywood, never advanced a runner past second base.
Venice (14-8) finished fourth in the Western League behind co-champions Westchester and Palisades and third-place Hamilton. Ruiz knows what the City playoffs are all about, having played in three straight City Section finals from 1999-01 as a pitcher at Carson.
"We lost a couple of games we shouldn't have lost in the regular season, so we could've done a little better," Ruiz said. "However, any team can win on a given day and I think we have the talent and drive to do well in the playoffs. I believe in this team."
CITY INVITATIONAL PLAYOFFS
Score by Innings
5 6 -- Final
0 0 -- 0Venice
103 x -- 21
Records: Torres 8-4-2; Venice 14-8.