Rob Duron was involved with the Westchester High baseball program in 1983, a championship season. “There was no better feeling,” he recalls.
The next year Westchester lost in the title game after conquering all obstacles along the way. “It was a bitter feeling,” he remembers. “And last Friday (May 16) I had the same feeling.”
The point is that falling short of a championship leaves a bitter taste, whether defeat occurs in the championship game or the first round.
In this case it was the first round of the 2008 CIF playoffs. Santa Monica, undefeated champion of the Ocean League, lost at home, 3-2, to Diamond Ranch, the third place team from the Miramonte League.
A capacity crowd was drawn, in part, to see Samohi junior Tyler Skaggs, who had gained considerable notoriety a week earlier by pitching 10 shutout innings without issuing a walk in a win over Culver City.
But a lot was different on this day from other days. Skaggs didn’t have the same command, issuing five walks. And Samohi’s usually reliable defense committed four errors.
What remained the same was Samohi’s inability to produce much offense. The Vikings had only two hits, a single by relief pitcher Paul Salazar and a bunt single by Charlie Parris.
And yet, Samohi had a 2-0 lead before the visitors rallied.
“Our hitting wasn’t much different from all season,” said Duron. “We had to scratch for our runs. But let’s give the opponent credit. From scouting reports we knew Diamond Ranch had three power hitters and also two quality pitchers. That was a good team.”
Duron said he replayed the game in his mind that evening.
“We had some opportunities and didn’t score,” he said. “And one of their biggest hits was a line drive barely out of Charlie Parris’ reach at first base. He’s 6-foot-5 and if he catches it that’s a double play. It was so close, but that’s baseball.”
Duron said he apologized to the Samohi players afterward. “I know they didn’t reach their goal and as the coach I take responsibility,” he said.
Duron admitted his first season was turbulent for a variety of reasons, among them the need for players to adjust to his style, which was different from previous coach Kevin Brockway.
In the end, the team got together well enoufh to go undefeated in league play before suffering the playoff loss. The overall record was 17-12.
Duron hopes to benefit from the experience. “I hope to be a better coach,” he said. “It was a pleasure to work with these guys.”
Salazar was a senior but Skaggs will return. A bevy of professional scouts are likely to attend the games he pitches. The 6-foot-4 lefty with a 91 mph fastball is projected as a high choice in the June, 2009 baseball draft.