Although most starters from Santa Monica High’s Division 4 runner-up baseball team are graduating, Coach Kevin Brockway is optimistic about next season.
“I think we’ll be pretty good,” he said. “A goal is to defend our Ocean League championship.”
The week after Samohi lost to Charter Oak of Covina, 7-1, in the championship game at Dodger Stadium, Brockway reflected on 24 victories, road playoff wins over St. Bonaventure and El Segundo and a come-from-behind 5-4 home win over Northview in the semifinals.
“It was a senior-dominated team and the players put together a memorable season,” he said. “I’m proud of our guys.
“My greatest disappointment is that we played so poorly in Dodger Stadium when thousands of our fans came to the game. I suppose we had butterflies in that setting. It was the poorest game we’ve played since I’ve been the coach here.”
That covers three seasons.
However, Brockway is moving on to thoughts about next season, when such stars as David Castellanos, Diego Valdez, Dylan Early, Devon Ramirez, Bryan Eyler, Joe McGrew, Johnny Huerta, Jose Campos, Rayvelle Holsome and Casey Reese will be elsewhere.
He believes pitching will be one of the Vikings’ main assets with Tyler Skaggs and Paul Salazar being the two primary starters.
Skaggs will be a junior. He has vast promise and some experience. Salazar, who played third base a year ago, excelled this season as the ace of the Vikings’ relief corps, inspiring talk that he may become a starter next season.
Asked if that was likely, Brockway replied, “Without a doubt. He had an outstanding season and was our most effective pitcher at Dodger Stadium.”
Skaggs is expected to take over for Valdez as the Vikings’ first baseman when he isn’t pitching. Another likely infield starter will be Zach Hernandez, an excellent shortstop who didn’t play much this season but started the playoff game against El Segundo.
To replace Early in right field, consideration is being given for Vince Lawrence to move there, leaving the catching to Alex Kovacs.
Lawrence is a good hitter and has been an outfielder in youth baseball. He isn’t polished defensively as a catcher and Kovacs is considered better at blocking pitches. Moving Lawrence to the outfield would be a way to get both players into the lineup.
To replace Ramirez in center field Brockway has several options, the most likely being Dorian Smith, an obviously talented youngster who played sparingly this season.
There are several ways to go in left, including Terry Wilson, Josh Huerta (Johnny’s brother) and Skylar Pascal, but one will have to emerge in off-season play. The heavy schedule of summer and fall activity gives younger players an opportunity to make an impression.
The most likely replacement for Holsome as the Designated Hitter is Nick Montanari, another of the skillful youngsters who didn’t play much this season.
Another possibility for playing time is Matt Helm.
Brockway will be looking for pitching depth too. Both McGrew and Skaggs did well the last two summers to prepare for the following season. McGrew was on the junior varsity roster when he blossomed in American Legion ball and became an all-CIF pitcher as a junior.
Skaggs wasn’t in the rotation when this season began, but replaced Ramirez in mid-season and progressed to being the starting pitcher at Dodger Stadium.
Some other players from the lower level teams may emerge at various positions too. The summer play gives them an opportunity.
Two seasons ago Culver City won the Ocean League with a senior-dominated team. This time it was Santa Monica. Both look good for next season along with Beverly Hills, followed by Hawthorne and Morningside.
The league’s sixth member, Inglewood, forfeited two games this season and is likely to face disciplinary action that could include a one-year ban from the league.