It had the earmarks of an early season struggle – new coach, new players, and the lack of facilities cutting into practice time.
And, predictably, it has been a struggle so far for Rob Duron and the Santa Monica High baseball team.
The defending Ocean League champions and a CIF playoff finalist that reached the big game in Dodger Stadium last season has a 3-5 record following recent losses to Crespi (5-0) and Brentwood (6-3), and the coach has yet to settle on his lineup.
However, Duron says this is about what he expected and he’ll be closer to sorting it out in a couple of weeks when league games begin.
It’s well known that seniors dominated the lineup last season, and Coach Kevin Brockway then resigned to become an assistant at West Los Angeles College this season.
It’s not as well known that Samohi’s undefeated soccer team shared the baseball field for practice, and as the soccer season went on and on, Duron’s evaluation process of his young players suffered.
Or that when soccer season did end, portions of the outfield were marked for discus practice at the start of track season.
Brockway used to suggest the City of Santa Monica build a baseball stadium and cited the presence of a few other ones. The City of Industry has one and Samohi has played there against the host school, Bell Gardens.
Instead, the Samohi baseball team has to share the campus field with other Viking sports.
If it’s any consolation, no team has emerged as the Ocean League favorite this season. And Morningside, an Ocean League opponent, was on a 17-game losing streak until it recently won a non-league game from Lennox.
Three Ocean League teams annually make the playoffs, and Samohi is likely to be in contention even if it doesn’t approach last season’s 24-10 record.
Duron does have quality pitching as transfer Logan Whitchurch has joined returnees Tyler Skaggs and Paul Salazar. Plus, senior Will Dickinson has been solid in relief.
Zack Rodriguez is a reliable shortstop, Whitchurch has been playing third, and Vince Lawrence, a catcher last season, has moved to left field.
That has left the catching to Colter Johnson, a junior varsity player last season. But now Alex Kovacs, the Vikings’ star soccer goalie, has joined the baseball team and may receive an opportunity. In Brockway’s long-range plan Kovacs was to be the likely starter.
Samohi is a large school with a lot of outstanding athletes and does well in most sports. It’s just that with a change of coaches time is required for roles to be determined. And with the complication of the baseball field being unavailable at times, it’s taking even longer.