SAMOHI ‚Äî The season finale was all about revenge for Santa Monica baseball.
After losing the Ocean League championship to Culver City last year, the Vikings clobbered the Centaurs, 7-4, Thursday to claim this season‚Äôs crown.
“We had two goals this season ‚Äî to get 20 wins and to win a league title,” said Samohi head coach Kurt Schwengel. “And we did both of those.”
However, things looked shaky for Samohi in the first inning after the Centaurs took a 1-0 lead. Then to make matters worse, ace pitcher Conner Greene aggravated a preexisting abdominal injury and did not return for the rest of the game.
“I think it‚Äôs a muscle strain, I didn‚Äôt want to push anything and overexert and injure myself,” Greene said.
It‚Äôs unclear at the moment how this will affect the Vikings‚Äô pitching staff moving forward into the postseason. Greene, however, is optimistic about his abilities despite the “strain” and doesn‚Äôt believe it will hurt his performance in the playoffs.
“Hopefully it doesn‚Äôt, and I‚Äôm gonna work hard to make sure it doesn‚Äôt,” he said. “I want to be 100 percent for the playoffs.”
Feeling a sense of urgency, the Vikings brought the hammer down on Centaur pitcher Nate Matthews, racking up seven runs in the second inning. Samohi‚Äôs bats rattled Matthews and took the lead 4-1 before Culver could even secure a single out.
Catcher Leno Lares hit a two-run double in the inning, Nobu Suzuki added a two-run single, and Alex Turner stroked a double. Turner was 3-for-3 at the plate on the day, with three doubles and one walk.
“Today I told myself I wanted to go 4-4,” Turner said.
Samohi relief pitcher Ryan Barbarin stepped up for the Vikings in a major way with seven strikeouts in five innings and after the clinching victory over their league nemesis, the lanky senior has his eyes on future glory.
“We‚Äôre going all the way,” said Barbarin.
Culver City head coach Rick Prieto wasn‚Äôt happy with his team losing league, but was pleased with his ball club‚Äôs composure in a high stress environment.
“They had a seven run second inning and we didn‚Äôt quit,” said Prieto. “They earned them on hits, and you can‚Äôt fault that and you just take your hat off to them.”
Successfully clinching the top seed from the league and their second league title in three years, the Vikings look to use this momentum to carry them into the postseason.
“Culver is definitely a better team in our league and all the teams are going to be as good as them or better,” said Greene.
The Vikings will know their fate and first round opponent when playoff matchups are announced on Sunday.