SAMOHI ‚Äî After losing 10 of their last 11 games and mired in a nine game skid, Palisades High School‚Äôs baseball team gave the Santa Monica Vikings all they could handle on Saturday.
However, in the end it would be the Vikings superior teamwork and defense that would win the day, 5-4.
Looking to rectify their record, the Pali Dolphins took the wind out the Viking‚Äôs sails early by jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Samohi‚Äôs ace pitcher, Conner Greene, had over 20 pitches in the first and was noticeably frustrated.
“Greene doesn‚Äôt usually struggle in the first inning, but I gotta give it to Pali they turned on all his curveballs today,” said Kurt Schwengel, Samohi head coach.
“The whole game my curveball was not feeling good at all, it was trash,” said Greene, whose counterpart Palisades High starting pitcher, Anthony Poulos, started strong with six strikeouts in the first two innings.
It took until the bottom of the third before the Vikings settled down and started putting bat to ball. Jonathan Rakuljic got things started for Samohi by slamming a double to right field, and was followed on base by Lino Lares.
Lares stole second base and Ryan Barbarin hit a sacrifice flyout to chip away at the lead making it 2-1. The Vikings recorded three drag bunts and three stolen bases to steal the momentum and the lead, making the score 3-2.
“What changed the tempo was the three drag bunts,” said Palisades head coach Mike Voelkel, who was less than thrilled to see his team blow another chance at victory. “We were able to put ourselves in situations to do positive things.”
Samohi‚Äôs skipper agreed.
“That‚Äôs what‚Äôs so dangerous about our team, the bottom half of our lineup. There‚Äôs not really a weak spot,” Schwengel said. “We‚Äôre pretty darn versatile.”
Although the Dolphins blew their early opportunity to win they persevered throughout, racking up three double plays in three innings. A late rally in the sixth even brought them one run away, but it was the classic story of too little, too late.
The Vikings defense was just as solid with two double plays of their own and an incredible stop by Mason Landis, who hurdled over his teammate Nobu Suzuki to get his glove on a line drive.
“I‚Äôve been watching Mason for four years and that was the best play I‚Äôve seen him do,” said Schwengel.
The win on Saturday is a credit to Samohi‚Äôs depth. Samohi was missing five guys from their normal rotation and yet still kept their composure to beat a team who put the pressure on them early.
“We executed, we jumped on the pitcher and we played excellent defense,” Schwengel said.
Samohi‚Äôs next game is scheduled for April 23 against Morningside at 3:15 p.m. It takes place at Samohi.