The Santa Monica High School Vikings saw just how demanding the atmosphere of the Big Leagues can be when they stepped onto the field at Dodger Stadium to play for the Southern Section Division IV Baseball Championship Friday, June 1st.
Santa Monica’s impressive run through the playoffs came to an end in the Division IV championship game at the home of the Dodgers, as Charter Oak High School of Covina defeated the Vikings 7-1 to win its first section baseball title.
It was Santa Monica’s first appearance in the Southern Section division title game since 1973, when the Vikings took home the championship trophy, Santa Monica coach Kevin Brockway said.
The Vikings (24-9) came into the Division IV final June 1st on a high after capturing a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over Northview High School of Covina in the semifinals May 29th.
Coming on the heels of their win over second-seeded Northview, the Vikings were confident in their chances to topple Charter Oak (19-7), Brockway said.
“Everybody truly believed we were going to win that game,” Brockway said of the team’s confidence before the game.
But nerves and the atmosphere of playing for a division title in front of thousands of fans at a Big League ball park seemed to take over, as Brockway said the Vikings had one of their poorest performances in his three years as coach.
Noticing the uneasiness of his players during the game, Brockway said he tried to settle their nerves by telling them to focus on the game.
After the Charter Oak Chargers opened the game with a run in the top of the first inning, Santa Monica evened the score in the bottom of the first, when senior shortstop David Castellanos gave the Vikings their only run of the game.
The Chargers then regained the lead for good against Viking starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs and took a 5-1 advantage in the fourth inning on the way to closing out the division championship.
The early deficit proved to be a factor for the Vikings, as they “couldn’t take any chances on base,” but they also struggled to send some potential runs home, including a bases loaded situation in the fourth inning, Brockway said.
“If we make the plays it’s a different game,” the coach said.
Santa Monica may have been playing at a professional team’s field but the Vikings were not short of support, as approximately 5,000 fans came to cheer them on.
“They were outstanding fans,” Brockway said.
Despite coming up short of a division championship, Brockway said the Vikings were proud to have reached their first title game in more than three decades.
“It means everything to make it that far,” Brockway said. “We did what we had to to get there.”
A main highlight in the Vikings’ run to the Division IV title game was the semifinal game against Northview, which Brockway called “one of the most exciting games” he has been a part of at Santa Monica.
Trailing 4-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Vikings battled back with a run in the sixth and four runs in the seventh to grab the upset victory.
The run through the playoffs was a continuation of a successful regular season for Santa Monica, which reclaimed the Ocean League title by defeating defending league champion Culver City High and finished with a league record of 9-1.
“I’m proud of my guys,” Brockway said. “They had a great season and a great run.”