SAMOHI — The good news is that Santa Monica will have another shot at a chance for an Ocean League baseball crown.
The bad news is that they missed out on the opportunity to clinch at least a share with a 7-6 loss to rival Culver City on Tuesday at home.
With the victory, Culver City is in control for the championship with one regular season game remaining. The two teams square off again on Thursday at Culver City to decide league.
If Samohi wins the crucial game, the two teams would finish the season 9-1 in league and a coin toss would determine who gets the technical No. 1 seed from the league for the playoffs.
Both coaches and players would prefer a one-game playoff to decide it, but they’ll have to settle for chance to determine who earns an automatic first round playoff home game.
“Those guys are a good team, we had to play our A game,” Samohi head coach Sheldon Philip-Guide said. “It may have been a combination of nerves and Culver City.”
The game didn’t start too well for Samohi.
With two outs in the first inning, Culver City’s Daniel Hennessy drew a walk. Starting pitcher Tyler Mark followed with what appeared to be a fielder’s choice situation, but Samohi third baseman Ryan Barbarin threw the ball into center field, allowing Hennessy to score the game’s first run.
Although it was just one run, Samohi starting pitcher Adam Padilla — as well as his coach — thought the play gave Culver City confidence and more importantly momentum.
Padilla was able to close the inning, but that one run would come back to haunt Samohi in the end.
The second inning brought Culver City a pair of runs on the strength of a run-scoring triple by Jon Kocker and a sacrifice by Brian Ibarra.
“They had good approaches [at the plate],” said Padilla, who pitched a complete game in defeat. “They weren’t swinging at my curve ball, which is my ‘out’ pitch.”
Samohi got on the scoreboard in the third inning with Alonzo Hernandez and Mason Landis crossing the plate, but the Vikings’ rally was stifled in the very next inning.
Leading 3-2, Culver City plated two more runs, giving them a commanding 5-2 lead.
Culver City would add two more runs, but Samohi wasn’t done.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth trailing 7-4, Samohi had the first two batters reach base, ultimately scoring both on a sacrifice by Jonathan Rakuljic and a Culver City error.
Down by just one, the Vikings had the opportunity to tack on another run to tie it, but Padilla and Barbarin were unable to keep the rally going, giving Culver City the win.
“That was the toughest game of the year,” Culver City head coach Rick Prieto said. “We were able to score early and again later in the game, giving us balance.”
Even with at least a share of the league title in hand, Prieto is cautiously optimistic that his Centaurs can close the deal on Thursday on their own field.
“We just have to finish what we started,” he said. “We’re committed to be the best we can be.”
The game begins Thursday at 3:15 p.m. at Culver City.