SAMOHI — The Vikings’ drive for a third consecutive Ocean League title in baseball just got a little more interesting.

Santa Monica High School’s 7-3 victory over Morningside at home Tuesday allowed the Vikings to stay atop the league standings along with Culver City. Both teams have just one loss during league play. Samohi is 4-1 in the league standings, while Culver City is 3-1. The score from Culver City’s Tuesday game against Inglewood was not available at presstime.

“We both control our own destinies now,” Head Coach Rob Duron said of the race for a league title. “But before we can think about that, we have to deal with Morningside again on Thursday.”

If Tuesday was any indicator, the Vikings’ offense proved that it can score runs on Morningside.

The Vikings came blazing out of the gate during the first inning. Freshman Adam Padilla opened the bottom half of the inning with a triple to deep left. Team captain Ricky Gomez followed and sacrificed Padilla home, making it 1-0. With a man on, speedy senior outfielder Vince Lawrence came to the plate and crushed what appeared to be a Jonathan Davila fast ball to deep right field for another triple.

Tyler Skaggs, who is scheduled to pitch Thursday during the rematch with Morningside, struck out with Lawrence at third for the second out of the first. With two out, a man on third and a run already in the books, catcher Colter Johnson hit a hard single to right, scoring Lawrence on the play making it 2-0.

The next man up, Michael Alonge was able to keep the inning alive with a single to center. With men on first and second, Drew Hammond smacked a double to left, scoring Alonge and Johnson. With Hammond’s pair of runs batted in, the Vikings led 4-0.

The Vikings tacked on three more runs in the second inning bringing the score to 7-0, but not before Morningside made it a ball game.

Duron was happy with his team’s effort on Tuesday, but knows that his team will have to work on protecting leads if his Vikings are to three-peat as league champs.

Tuesday’s game against Morningside was a perfect example of what he meant.

Leading 7-0 in the top of the fifth inning, starter Logan Whitchurch (2-1) issued a walk to Morningside’s Jose Robledo. David Torres came to the plate next and promptly hit a fly ball to center that Lawrence attempted to snag by making a diving catch. The ball just missed his glove by inches and allowed Torres to reach second with a double, scoring Robledo and making it 7-1.

Duron decided to summon junior Noah Tillipman to relieve Whitchurch, who had been effective through the first four innings. With Torres at second, Tillipman faced Jose Cedena who sacrificed the runner to third. Jesus Jimenez followed and hit a soft grounder back to Tillipman who didn’t have a play at either home or first. Torres then scored making it 7-2 with a man on first.

Tillipman held his ground in the fifth by retiring the final two batters he faced, but not before Morningside made the game a bit more interesting.

“I thought we should have scored a couple more runs,” Morningside Head Coach Dale St. John said. “I didn’t see much from [Whitchurch or Tillipman], but they were able to hang in there and get the win.”

The sixth inning saw Morningside continue its late game charge.

Tillipman began the inning by recording two quick outs. With two out and nobody on, Morningside’s Julio Serrano hit a double to deep left field. Serrano was then able to advance to third on a Tillipman wild pitch, setting the stage for another Morningside run.

With Serrano on third, Robledo was able to draw a walk putting men at the corners. While Brian Hernandez, the next hitter, was at the plate Robledo appeared to be caught stealing before Tillipman threw the pitch. As he advanced toward Robledo to make the out, Serrano was given the green light to successfully steal home on the double steal attempt. Both runners were safe and Samohi’s lead was cut by another run, 7-3.

Tillipman was able to strike out Hernandez for the final out of the sixth. He settled down during the seventh, striking out a pair in the process and preserving the victory.

These two teams will play the second game of the series at Morningside Thursday at 3:15 p.m. Samohi’s Skaggs will make the start against Morningside’s Robledo.

daniela@smdp.com