Summing up the surprising state of Santa Monica High baseball entering the final week of the regular season, Coach Rob Duron says “anything can happen and nothing would surprise me.”Following two disappointing losses to Beverly Hills last week, 2-1 and 6-5, the Vikings have only an outside chance of winning the Ocean League and could finish second, third or fourth, depending on their games against Culver City. Three teams will receive CIF playoff berths, and if Samohi doesn’t qualify it would be a huge disappointment for the defending league champions.A sprained ankle kept Tyler Skaggs from pitching against Beverly Hills, and it’s unknown if the youngster one month away from being a high selection in the annual baseball draft will be able to face Culver City. Skaggs is projected to be drafted around 10th in June, and the anticipated signing bonus for ninth and 10th choices is about $4 million.Skaggs attempted to pinch hit in the seventh inning of the 2-1 loss to Beverly Hills but struck out on three pitches.In that game at Samohi, Logan Whitchurch pitched the entire eight innings and gave up just two hits but absorbed the loss.Two days later, with Skaggs unable to pitch, Alonzo Gonzalez was the Vikings starter but was removed after one inning when his season-long battle with control remained a problem. Gonzalez, a junior who averages one walk per inning, was followed by Noah Tilipman, Greg Alonge and Adam Padilla in the 6-5 loss at Rancho Cienega Park.Beverly Hills has surged late in the season. The Normans won two games from Hawthorne before winning two from Samohi and are now in the hunt with those two teams and Culver City.Meanwhile, Santa Monica has slumped to a 5-3 league record after going 10-0 last season.”When I say “anything can happen I mean it in a couple of ways,” Duron explained.”We could make the playoffs or miss out. We could make it as a third place team and beat a league champion in the first round because we’re talented enough to do that.”We could implode or we could get to the division championship game. If we win throughout the playoffs it wouldn’t surprise me. With Tyler and Logan we gave two of the league’s best in earned run average. And on our good days we’ve done well against several highly-rated teams outside of our league.”But despite Duron’s belief that his team is talented he admits it has underachieved and he expresses disappointment that the administration took no action after the coach of another sport at the school called for his removal in a newspaper letter to the editor.At some schools, he noted, a strong statement of support is issued after such criticism.There’s been a lot of criticism of the coach in the stands even though he won 15 of his first 16 league games since taking over the program last season. He’s the latest in a long line of head baseball coaches at Samohi, where the average span is less than three years. By contrast, at many schools the head coach lasts decades. John Stevenson at El Segundo, Scott Muckey at Crespi and Rick Prieto at Culver City are examples.Kevin Brockway, who preceded Duron at Samohi, had three successful years, including a division championship game appearance at Dodger Stadium, but then left to become an assistant coach at West Los Angeles College.
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