SAMOHI — Sometimes, the little things can be huge.
With sole possession of first place on the line, Santa Monica High School’s baseball team lost a heartbreaker to Ocean League rival Culver City, 3-1, on Tuesday setting up a rematch on Thursday with title implications.
Samohi senior pitcher Alonzo Gonzalez kept the Vikings in it the whole afternoon as he amassed 10 strikeouts in seven and two-thirds innings. While the tall lefty committed to play for Loyola Marymount next season did everything he could to notch the victory, it was fielding and situational hitting that doomed the Vikings.
“It was a tough one,” Gonzalez said. “We really wanted this game.”
With the game knotted, 1-1, in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Vikings’ Adam Padilla led off with a wind-aided double to deep center field. Gonzalez followed and was issued an intentional walk by Culver City starter Alejandro Andrews, giving the Vikings men at first and second with no outs.
First baseman Ethan Corn followed and was unable to get a sacrifice bunt down that potentially could have advanced both runners. The next two Vikings popped up, ending the inning, sending it into extra frames.
Culver City (18-8 overall, 8-1 in league) wasted little time getting two men aboard in the top of the eigth inning, setting up what would ultimately be the winning runs.
With men at second and third with two outs, Samohi shortstop Andrew Montanari fielded a soft ground ball off the bat of Culver City’s Michael Lee that he threw in the dirt at first base. Both runners scored on the error, sending Samohi (14-11 overall, 7-2 in league) to defeat and Culver City to the top of the standings.
“From day one, we anticipated this showdown,” Culver City Head Coach Rick Prieto said. “This proves that there are good baseball programs on the Westside.”
On the other side of the diamond, moods were certainly less positive.
Montanari, visibly upset by his throwing error, was seen pleading with Gonzalez to forgive his misplay, but Gonzalez was having none of it. He simply told the distraught shortstop that it was “all good” and that they had another shot on Thursday.
“I expect [Culver City] to come out with the same attitude,” Gonzalez said. “I expect another close one.”
The Vikings will travel to Culver City Thursday for the 3:15 p.m. game. Samohi’s Padilla is scheduled to start a game that has league title implications.
The Vikings enter the game with a 7-2 league record, one game behind Culver City. If the Vikings can record the victory it will end the season with a two-team tie for first, which would be decided by a tiebreaker.
“We ruined [Culver City’s] chance for a league title last year,” Gonzalez said. “I think they want to do the same to us this year.”