When the St. Monica Catholic baseball team faced Culver City earlier this month, it didn’t simply lose the game.

It also lost starting shortstop Michael Flores, who left the diamond with a broken ankle.

The injury during what turned out to be a 4-1 defeat was a significant setback for the Mariners, who are trying to establish the program’s culture of commitment in their first year under coach Michael Alcala.

“We’ve had some challenges, some hiccups in the road,” Alcala said. “But the boys are getting at it.”

Flores, who could return to the lineup in early May, was batting .306 with 11 hits, eight runs and three RBI when he was sidelined by injury. St. Monica has lost three consecutive games since then, dropping a two-game series against Montebello-Cantwell-Sacred Heart and falling 15-1 to San Pedro-Mary Star of the Sea on the road April 19. The squad is scheduled to host Playa Del Rey-St. Bernard on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m.

But despite their recent skid and the loss of Flores, the Mariners are pressing on.

Alcala said he’s set goals for the season while also empowering his players with the responsibility of setting expectations for future student-athletes at the Santa Monica private school.

“It’s always nice to make the playoffs, so we’ll strive for that,” Alcala said. “We want to improve our record, but also our dedication. We’re working towards that.”

St. Monica was 8-10 through 18 games, including 1-5 in Camino Real League games. But the squad has already bested its record from last season, when it earned just five total victories under then-coach Jack White.

“We’re working towards establishing the program,” Alcala said. “It’s work in progress. We’re trying to build it up and prove that you don’t have to be a big, power school to be successful in baseball.”

Several current players have taken the task to heart, including a senior class that features Declan Kearney, Cameron Nuslein, Marco Rubio and Tony Farina.

Kearney had an earned-run average of 2.22 through 28 1/3 innings on the mound, racking up 32 strikeouts during that span. He fanned 16 combined batters in March wins over St. Bernard and Ontario Christian.

“He’s pitched well all year,” Alcala said.

Kearney highlights a rotation that also features sophomore Vincent Diaz, who had an ERA of 0.40 and 11 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings of work.

Nuslein, meanwhile, is leading the charge on offense. The standout quarterback is batting .500 with 17 hits, 10 runs and nine RBI, blasting a home run in the Mariners’ loss to Fillmore last month.

“The seniors are leading and everyone’s trying to push each other to get better,” Alcala said.

That push is aided by assistant coach Anthony Angel, a St. Monica alumnus described by Alcala as “more of a co-head coach.”

“He brings a lot of knowledge, a lot of passion, a lot of pride for the school,” Alcala said of Angel, who played at Loyola Marymount before being drafted by the Houston Astros in 2000. “He’s tried to pass that on to the kids.”

Alcala said it’s also helped to have a boss who is supportive of the baseball program. Frank Cruz, the athletic director at St. Monica, coached the sport at LMU and USC.

“He’s a great person to bounce things off of,” Alcala said. “He’s been really helpful. He doesn’t want to step on my toes and get in my way, but I always ask him. It’s been a real big plus. That’s really helped us. Even the players, they’ll seek him out, and it’s great for them to get feedback right away.”

jeff@www.smdp.com