SAMOHI — The Vikings’ late-season surge was stopped cold Friday by Montebello in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs.
Santa Monica High School’s baseball team, winners of 10 of their last 14 games, had their chances, but were rebuffed at every turn by Montebello starting pitcher Anthony Millan during a 9-3 loss at home.
“We had our opportunities, had the bases loaded a few times, but we couldn’t get runs across,” Head Coach Sheldon Philip-Guide said. “They certainly took advantage of their opportunities.
“[Montebello] is a good team, they didn’t make the playoffs for nothing.”
Montebello struck early against Samohi starter Andrew McRitchie during a first-inning rally that saw the Oilers score three runs.
McRitchie settled down in the second inning, holding the score at 3-0. Samohi seized the opportunity to get back in the game with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning.
All-Ocean League designated hitter David Tyre-Vigil led off the inning for the Vikings with a double to deep left field. He was later pushed across the plate by Trent Nelson’s RBI single to left field. Benny Arce’s infield sacrifice would score sophomore catcher Lino Lares later in the frame to make the game close at 3-2.
But, that’s as close as it would get for the Vikings, who finished the season 13-17 overall and 10-0 in league play.
Montebello would tack on six insurance runs on starter McRitchie and relief pitcher Albert Garcia, as the Oilers advanced to the second round.
For the Vikings, who began the season on shaky ground, the loss ends what was a surprise turnaround that saw the Vikings win their second straight league title.
On the other side of the diamond, Montebello head coach Rafael Guiterrez was surprised to see McRitchie start the game. He expected junior Adam Padilla, Samohi’s ace, to be on the mound come game time.
He had prepared his team to face the right-hander, but said that his Oilers made adjustments once they saw the tall lefty on the bump.
“Our guys took advantage of [McRitchie’s] control,” he said. “We didn’t waste any chances.”
Philip-Guide defended the choice to start McRitchie, his go-to pitcher at home this season. He thought the senior would dig deep, saying, “I wanted to give him a chance to win one at home,”
Despite the early playoff exit, the future is promising for the Vikings, a team that started seven underclassmen on Friday. The Vikings return Padilla, the league’s MVP and team leader, as well as a number of juniors and sophomores that were named all-league this season.
“This year has taught us underclassmen a lot about what it takes to be successful,” Padilla said. “Hopefully this experience pays off next season.”