This is how April began for the Santa Monica High baseball team.
On Tuesday the Vikings lost for the fifth straight time, falling at Hawthorne, 6-2 despite having ace pitcher Tyler Skaggs ready for the Ocean League opener.
On Wednesday there was a player’s only meeting.
On Thursday at home the Vikings trailed Hawthorne, 7-3 after four innings. After going 10-0 in the league last season the team was in danger of becoming 0-2.
And then it turned around.
Samohi rallied for an 8-7 victory and went into some spring break non-league games able to regroup. That stretch began Friday night in a 12-4 win at Redondo and the next six games will provide further time for experimenting before league competition resumes.
Samohi will have a home tournament game against Chaminade Saturday, April 11 at 4 p.m.
Key players in the comeback win over Hawthorne were relief pitcher Drew Hammond, who restored order with three shutout innings that included six strikeouts and Matias Letelier, a senior who didn’t start but went into centerfield for Vince Lawrence in the second inning.
Letelier delivered a two-run, game-winning single in the sixth. He had two hits in the game, his first two of the season.
Coach Rob Duron explained his thinking.
As for inserting Hammond, the team’s closer when the Vikings were four runs behind, a seemingly curious move, Duron said:
“If we lose our first two league games we’re in a tough situation. We were behind, 7-3. We had to stop this right now.”
The strategy looked brilliant when the Vikings took the lead and Hammond protected it.
As for removing Lawrence in the middle of an inning after he had dropped a fly ball, Duron said:
“I would never remove a player in the middle of an inning for making an error. After that play I was trying to position Vince for the next hitter and we were having trouble communicating. It was an important situation so I sent Matias out there.”
Lawrence, who had hit a home run Tuesday at Hawthorne, was back in the lineup at Redondo and contributed to the Vikings’ victory.
Adding to the Vikings’ problems was a 90-minute delay at the start of the game at Hawthorne due to the umpires being late and a couple of false starts due to a reserve umpire not having the required equipment
Skaggs warmed up six times. Duron said he considered going with a different pitcher but decided to stay with his ace that was being inspected as usual by 30 scouts.
Skaggs wasn’t at his best, especially in the sixth inning
So, in the most unlikely week, Samohi lost when Skaggs pitched and won when he didn’t.
Duron was pleased with the players’ approach to hitting at Redondo. “A team approach” is what he called it.
Highlights were a pinch-hit triple by Hammond and a successful drag bunt by freshman Adam Padilla, who has outstanding speed.
The approach was considered far better than the one at Hawthorne in which Samohi had 16 outs on balls hit into the air.
It was also encouraging that Colter Johnson was able to catch after not playing the position earlier in the season due to sore knees. Johnson threw out a Redondo runner attempting to steal second.
Alonzo Gonzalez, a 6-foot-3 junior who is one of the candidates to be Samohi’s second starting pitcher, did well at Redondo. He had a better outing than junior Noah Tilipman, the starter Thursday against Hawthorne.
Ethan Corn, who pitched in relief Thursday, is another candidate. Both Padilla and Logan Whitchurch have experience as pitchers but so far Duron has preferred to keep them in the outfield.