Rob Duron had a talk with the Santa Monica High baseball team recently.
“We’ve played 20 games [19 actually] and hit one home run,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious pitching, defense, and moving runners along on the bases give us our best chance to win.”
The lone homer was hit by Tyler Skaggs, and it has been the pitching of Skaggs and Paul Salazar, with some efficient relief work by Will Dickinson, that has given Samohi a 4-0 record in the Ocean League and a hot streak that has brought the Vikings’ overall record to 9-10 following a slow start.
Duron, in his first year of head coach, now has a squad challenging Beverly Hills and Culver City for league superiority with a CIF playoff berth becoming more likely.
Samohi defeated Inglewood, 2-0 and 22-4, in its two most recent games. But even when the Vikings scored 22 runs Duron pointed out that 12 batters struck out and the opponent’s miscues set up some rallies.
The thought of Samohi having to play “small ball,” where the advancement of runners is crucial, is a new concept to the program.
Beginning with the era of Cody Decker, who now is UCLA’s leading home run hitter as a junior, the Vikings have been a heavy hitting team.
Last year’s Vikings, on the way to 24 wins and a berth in the CIF championship game at Dodger Stadium, had a solid lineup. But that team was dominated by seniors who are now playing elsewhere.
Logan Whitchurch and Colter Johnson have supplied some offense, but it has been important for Skaggs and Salazar to keep the opponent’s run production down.
“They’ve both pitched very well,” said Duron.
Skaggs, a junior already attracting attention from college scouts, struck out 13 Inglewood batters and allowed only two hits in the 2-0 win.
In another game Skaggs struck out 11, including the last seven batters.
Duron, who didn’t know much about the players when the season began, has been pleased with other aspects of the team recently.
He’s happy that Zack Rodriguez is playing shortstop after missing considerable time with a back injury. And he was delighted when Matt Lamana, playing first base, alertly followed the path of an opposing baserunner and was in position to make a putout at second base.
“We have a long way to go but we’re making progress,” said Duron.
Following games against Morningside April 22 and 24, Samohi will settle its league fate with a pair of games against Beverly Hills and two against Culver City.