There’s been a dramatic development in the Ocean League baseball race.
Lefthander Chris Fiala, one of the Vikings’ two starting pitchers in their undefeated run to the league championship last season, made his 2006 debut last Thursday after recovering from an arm injury.
He pitched in relief against Morningside, faced eight batters and struck out seven in a 6-0 victory on the Monarchs’ field.
The next day, when the teams played again at Samohi, the Vikings won again 6-0 as junior Devon Ramirez pitched the first six innings.
So Samohi, which was plagued so much by injuries while splitting its first 12 games, now appears to have pitching depth in its quest for another league championship.
The injuries to Fiala and James Nedelmen, the two pitchers expected to get most of the work, gave opportunities to junior Joe McGrew and Ramirez. Both have seized upon their opportunity.
McGrew started the game at Morningside Thursday, didn’t give up any runs but had to leave the game with a sore back. That resulted in Fiala and freshman Tyler Skaggs pitching successfully in relief.
McGrew saw a doctor and is expected to pitch within a week.
One other Viking pitcher who came through was senior right-hander Harlow Sharp, who worked the final inning of Friday’s game to complete Ramirez’s shutout.
“Harlow had control problems last season and we suggested he pitch in a submarine motion instead of over the top,’’ said Samohi Coach Kevin Brockway. “His location is much better now.’’
The pitching depth is important because Ocean League teams play the same opponent twice in the same week, a schedule that prevents one pitcher from dominating the action. Last season Samohi had Fiala and senior Mike Walsh.
The Vikings had a large contingent of rooters Friday. Skaggs is the son of Samohi softball coach Debbie Skaggs. With the team not scheduled and headed for spring break, Debbie Skaggs and most of the Viking softball players attended the baseball game.
Morningside isn’t one of the league’s stronger teams and Samohi jumped on the Monarchs early with three first inning runs. The Monarchs couldn’t mount a comeback as Ramirez kept them off balance.
Samohi’s toughest test in the league is expected to come in two games against Culver City later this month. One Centaur pitcher, Jeremy Burrell, has thrown two no-hitters in his career, the most recent one coming two weeks ago against Leuzinger.
This season has been a struggle for Samohi until the last two weeks, due primarily to injuries and the graduation of last season’s stars, catcher Cody Decker and Walsh.
Outfielder Milan De Pillars was limited to a pinch-hitting appearance Friday due to a shoulder injury and catcher Mike Schwartz didn’t bat, giving way to a designated hitter throughout the game because of a wrist problem that has affected him since the season began.
“We’re trying to get back to last season’s standard but we’re not there yet,’’ said Brockway.
The heart of the lineup last season consisted of Dylan Early, Decker, Schwartz and De Pillars. Of that group, only Early was available Friday, but Brockway is trying to mount an offense with others in those roles.
The Vikings’ infield defense is strong and now the pitching is shaping up.