It has begun.
Tyler Skaggs’ season of scrutiny prior to the June major league baseball draft began Saturday, March 7 when Santa Monica High’s heralded 6-foot-4 senior lefthander worked the first three innings in an eight-inning 5-4 victory at Westlake High.
Skaggs, who displayed his skills in various off-season national showcase events and is projected as a likely first round selection, made an error and gave up a home run in his 2009 season debut.
A capacity crowd in Westlake Village included a bevy of major league scouts, and this is how it’s going to be throughout the season.
“Tyler pitched fine,” said Samohi coach Rob Duron. “All of our starters are on a pitch count early in the season because I want their arms to be strong for league games.
“Tyler’s limit was 50 and he threw 48.”
Skaggs is not expected to pitch Wednesday, March 11 in Samohi’s next game. It will be at home against Taft High starting at 3:15. Skaggs is scheduled to pitch again next weekend.
Samohi has a 2-0 record. It began the season Friday with an 8-1 non-league win over University High when the pitchers were Alonzo Gonzalez and Noah Tillipman
“Noah was outstanding. I’m really pleased with him,” said Duron.
Anticipating the attention prospective high draft choices receive, Duron has established rules for scouts and the media.
Several fences have been installed at Samohi’s field, limiting how close photographers and scouts can come to the players. One photographer who entered Samohi’s dugout at Westlake Saturday was escorted out by the coach.
“The scouts are everywhere,” said Duron. “That’s fine as long as they don’t interfere with what we’re doing.
“As for interview requests they won’t be granted on days when Tyler is pitching or when he has classes to attend.
“Tyler got used to the scrutiny at off-season events and he’s handling the situation well. It might be a distraction for our other players but we’ll deal with that.”
As Duron begins his second season as the Vikings’ coach he’s replacing several key players from an Ocean League championship team. As was the case last year he feels pitching and defense will be the team’s strengths.
’We don’t have a Cody Decker.” he said referring to the former Santa Monica High slugger who now hits home runs for UCLA.
“We scored two runs on the first weekend on squeeze plays when the batter missed the bunt.”
Both times the catcher dropped the ball.
In Saturday’s game Ricky Gomez delivered the winning hit in the eighth inning. Duron also praised the play of returnee Logan Whitchurch and several players up from last year’s junior varsity.
Greg Alonge pitched two innings in relief and got out of a bases-loaded jam. His twin brother, Mike, a first baseman, had two hits.
Whitchurch, a third baseman last season who hits and runs well, pitched three innings in relief. He’s the Vikings’ leadoff hitter, followed in the lineup by DH Colter Johnson and centerfielder Vince Lawrence.