Santa Monica High won all 10 of its Ocean League baseball games, earned a home game in the first round of the CIF Division 4 playoffs and attracted one of the largest crowds ever seen at the Samohi baseball complex. But it quickly became apparent Thursday afternoon that Lompoc High, a second place team from its’ league, wasn’t intimidated. Lompoc scored two runs in the first inning. Samohi countered with Cody Decker’s 11th home run of the season and a couple of rallies that built a 6-2 lead. Lompoc came back against Samohi starter Mike Walsh to tie the game and Samohi’s season came down to one inning before the Vikings pulled out a 7-6 win. It was 6-6 entering the seventh and everything the Vikings hoped to accomplish was in danger of slipping away. But four players made sure Samohi would continue in the playoffs. First, relief pitcher Justin Cooper combined a live fastball with a crackling curve to retire the determined visitors in the top half of the seventh. Then Decker was walked intentionally for the third consecutive time and reached second on a wild pitch. With first base open, cleanup hitter Mike Schwartz was also intentionally walked. Dylan Early, who hit second in the lineup until recently but was moved to fifth, ended the drama by drilling a single to centerfield. Decker came in with the winning run. Lompoc chose to walk Decker every time after his home run. But the strategy backfired on each occasion as Samohi Coach Kevin Brockway has figured out ways to make opponents pay for making that the decision. The development of sophomores Schwartz and Early has been vital. And Cooper, who lost his third base job early in the season, has given Brockway the relief pitcher he needs as starters Walsh and Chris Fiala have worked a lot of innings. Veteran viewers of Samohi baseball said the crowd was the size of ones that came to see future major leaguer Tim Leary and his championship teammates in the 1970s. It was the largest in the years this reporter has covered Samohi teams. While Samohi attempts to go further in the current playoffs it can look forward to future success, too. Although Decker is a senior likely to continue his baseball career at UCLA there are several key underclassmen coming back. Samohi played a second round game yesterday at Pioneer League champion El Segundo. The result wasn’t available at press time.
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