Turmoil, unrest, defeats.
Those are some of the words associated with Santa Monica High baseball this season.
However, that’s been in the non-league portion of the schedule, and with the arrival of April comes Ocean League play – the most meaningful time.
Samohi, which has a 4-8 record, was scheduled to begin league play Tuesday, April 1 with a home game against Hawthorne, and follow with a game at Hawthorne two days later.
The outcome of 10 league games will determine if the slow start can be attributed to an adjustment period required in the transition from one coach to another – Kevin Brockway to Rob Duron. Or if the problems run deeper.
Samohi, the defending league champion, went 24-10 last season before Brockway left to become an assistant at West Los Angeles College. Most of the players graduated and the new season hasn’t been pretty.
“We’ve lost to some teams we should have beaten, defeated some quality teams, and lost close games to strong teams,” said Duron. “We went 2-3 last week in the Anaheim Lions Tournament and could have won every game, so at times we’re close to breaking through.
“A big problem has been the lack of timely hitting.”
Change is often difficult, and Duron admits some parents have complained about his methods, which included having hitters take pitches as early as the first inning rather than swinging the bats in a few recent games.
The coach was seeking baserunners for a team having difficulty scoring runs, as was the case Saturday, March 29 in a non-league 2-0 home loss to Downey.
There has also been the frustration of the baseball field being unavailable at times due to soccer practice and the installation of a discus ring at the start of track season.
There is a perception – and I’ve heard this from people who’ve been in the program in previous years – that baseball has a low priority at Samohi. They say at many schools it is considered more important by the administration.
But Duron appreciates that Tony Tarasco and Tim Leary – both Samohi graduates who made the major leagues – have come back recently to help at practice.
Duron said Leary, most recently the pitching coach at UCLA, has helped Viking pitcher Logan Whitchurch, who has tossed the Vikings’ only complete game of the season.
Last week Samohi lost to North High of Riverside, 6-3, and to Savanna of Anaheim, 3-0.
On the positive side, Duron praises junior centerfielder Terry Wilson, who has made some spectacular catches.
And he’s happy with pitcher Drew Hammond and with Dax Bonney, who recently was called up from the junior varsity to play third base when Whitchurch suffered an arm injury. Bonney then pitched successfully in relief.
But injuries have also contributed to the problems. In one game two Viking catchers, Colter Johnson and Alex Kovacs, were both hurt.
The goal is to make the CIF playoffs, and the Ocean League is usually granted three berths.