A tall, talented left-handed pitcher from Santa Monica High is a few weeks away from being a first round choice in the major league baseball draft.
Tyler Skaggs’ story has been told throughout the Vikings’ season.
There’s another tall, talented left-handed pitcher on the team — a junior far removed from being similarly coveted.
But Alonzo Gonzalez has vast potential too, and his clutch performance propelled Samohi to a 3-2 first round CIF playoff victory over No. 2 seed San Gorgonio on Friday, May 22 in San Bernardino.
The victory — Samohi’s fourth straight in an elimination game — advanced the Vikings into a second round game on Tuesday against Los Altos, another third place team that eliminated a league champion in the first round. Playing on the road, Los Altos defeated Orange, 4-2.
The game is scheduled for Samohi beginning at 3:15 p.m. The winner will play the winner of Corona del Mar vs. Paramount Friday at a site to be determined.
Samohi is the only Ocean League team remaining in the playoffs. Beverly Hills, Culver City and Hawthorne all lost in the first round.
Skaggs threw a bullpen session to determine if he had sufficiently recovered from a sprained ankle to start against San Gorgonio. The decision was that he was close but only on the borderline of being ready. Since No. 2 starter Logan Whitchurch had pitched in Tuesday’s 1-0 wild card win over Knight High, Coach Rob Duron considered Gonzalez and right-hander Andrew Montinari.
On the morning of the game Duron hadn’t yet decided. Gonzalez had averaged one walk per inning this season. Montinari appeared to be the safer choice. But San Gorgonio’s best hitters batted left-handed.
Duron chose Gonzalez. The coach gathered the entire pitching staff, emphasized the importance of the game and asked everyone to go as hard as they could but also to be honest about being tired if that was the case.
Gonzalez came through on both counts. He pitched six strong innings and walked only two batters. Then he admitted the team would be better served if a reliever took over.
Samohi broke a 2-2 tie on Whitchurch’s second hit of the game and a double by Colter Johnson. Reliever Drew Hammond hit two batters in the seventh but earned the win, aided by a double play started by second baseman Walker Dove against a fast runner.
Like Gonzalez, Dove hasn’t been heralded like Skaggs and some other Vikings, but he batted an astounding .706 in Ocean League games, was outstanding defensively and has been voted all-league by opposing coaches.
“Tyler might have been able to go, but he wasn’t 100 percent and this close to the draft that was a consideration,” said Duron.
Some major league teams may ask Skaggs to work out for them prior to the draft in early June. Several have requested and received medical reports on his ankle.
“That would be sufficient for a lower round guy but the money is so big for the top ones that teams may ask for a workout and even have their own doctors examine the ankle,” a scout who asked not to be identified told The Mirror.
Millions of dollars are involved, so teams want as much information as they can get on a player.
It isn’t known where Skaggs will be drafted, but before he suffered the injury he was rated in the top 10.
Duron praised Gonzalez.
“He did well. He responded,” said Duron. : And afterward I told the team Alonzo not only pitched a fine game but realized when it was time to come out.
“That was important. That’s being a team player.”
A few weeks ago Duron removed Gonzalez after one inning. But the coach knows the youngster has a future in baseball if his control improves.
“When he’s on he’s a dominant pitcher,” said Duron.
If Skaggs can start either Tuesday or Friday Whitchurch would probably start the other game, assuming Samohi reaches the semi-finals.