SAMOHI — Making it to the first round of the playoffs has never been this tough.
Santa Monica High School’s baseball team advanced to the opening round of the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division III playoffs with a stunning 1-0 walk-off victory over Knight on Tuesday in the wild card round.
“I don’t mind how we played as long as it’s a win,” Head Coach Rob Duron said. “Like I’ve said all along, we can play with anybody.”
The contest was the Vikings’ third elimination game victory in a row. The first was a must-win situation in the Ocean League finale against Culver City. The second was a one-game playoff with Hawthorne that determined the final automatic playoff bid from their league. Tuesday determined who would advance to face San Gorgonio in the first round.
On all three counts, the Vikings met the challenge, but that’s not to say that it has been easy.
Pitching ruled the day as Knight’s Lucas LaPoint and Samohi’s Logan Whitchurch dueled from the jump. Whitchurch threw six innings of shut out ball, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out nine. LaPoint, who attracted a number of Major League Baseball scouts to the game, was equally as dominant through six innings, but it was the seventh that proved his undoing.
Pitching on a severely sprained ankle, LaPoint allowed just one hit coming into the seventh. Leading off the inning, senior shortstop Ricky Gomez was hit by a pitch. Struggling to find hits, Drew Hammond was asked to bunt to perhaps move Gomez over, but he was able to reach base with a single.
With a pair of Vikings on base, freshman Adam Padilla struck out. Michael Alonge followed and hit a fielder’s choice to short that forced Hammond at second base with the inning’s second out, but not before Gomez advanced to third.
Staring down an extra inning game, Walker Dove stepped to the plate 0-for-3 on the afternoon. On the second pitch of the at-bat, LaPoint threw a ball in the dirt that catcher Mark DeAsu couldn’t handle scoring Gomez with the winning run.
“I had to get on base any way that I could,” Gomez said of his final at bat. “Thank God he hit me.”
Gomez said that LaPoint had been on all game and was hoping to get something he could handle. Obviously in pain, Gomez said that it was worth taking one for a team that has made a habit of late game heroics.
“My ankle had nothing to do with [hitting Gomez],” LaPoint said. “I just made a mistake and they made me pay.”
With the win Samohi advances to play San Gorgonio on the road Friday at 3:15 p.m.
Duron said he hopes to put Tyler Skaggs on the mound, but isn’t sure if the star lefty’s ankle is up to the task. He added that he wants to see Skaggs throw off the mound before he decides to put him in a game for the first time in weeks.