If you were looking for good omens for the Santa Monica High School baseball team, you wouldn't find them by glancing at the statistics compiled by its first-year coach, Eddie Frierson, when he was a relief pitcher-third baseman at UCLA.
"I was not a stellar player," said Frierson, 27, a part-time coach at the school who earns his living as an actor. He said he gave up baseball when he was a UCLA senior in 1982 so that he could give more attention to his theater arts classes, many of which met on the same afternoons as baseball practice.
And if you were looking for good signs in the baseball beginnings of Frierson's top junior pitchers, twin brothers Kris and Kurt Schwengel, you would have to search long and hard.
Although the Schwengels started playing baseball at age 6 on the beach, it was not a particularly auspicious beginning, Kurt said. "We started playing Little League when we were 9. Before that we only played on the beach. We were real good at catching fly balls, but we couldn't field a ground ball."
If Frierson (pronounced FRY-er-son) and the Schwengel twins share some unpromising days as players, they also share a vision--of their team playing for the 4-A CIF-Southern Section championship June 6 at Dodger Stadium.
The coach, his twin pitchers and the rest of the Santa Monica team can also see themselves winning at Dodger Stadium and bringing the school its second CIF championship. Santa Monica won its only CIF title in 1973.
Two weeks ago Santa Monica took a big step toward Chavez Ravine and the championship game. The Vikings edged Beverly Hills, 2-1, to clinch a tie for first place in the Ocean League.
Last week Santa Monica swept two games from Inglewood to win the league title and finished with a 13-2 league record, 20-5 overall. It was reportedly the first time in school history that one of its baseball teams won 20 games in the regular season.
In a first-round playoff game in 4-A CIF-Southern Section competition, Santa Monica will play host to Westlake at 3:15 p.m. Friday.
Santa Monica has strong reasons for thinking about a CIF championship. Frierson inherited some championship material, including seven starters and 12 lettermen from ex-coach Tony Diaz, who guided the Vikings to an 18-9-1 record and the second round of the playoffs last year.
Diaz, who was also a part-time coach, left Santa Monica last year because he wanted to teach economics full time, and the school didn't have a position to offer him. He is now teaching at Oxnard High School and is also head baseball coach there.
Most of the Santa Monica players whom Diaz left behind are having strong years. Senior second baseman Kris DeKoff is batting .486, senior first baseman Peter McKellar .377, senior catcher Randy Bongard .366 and junior outfielder Nick Satriano .306.
McKellar leads the team in extra base hits with 5 home runs, 6 doubles and 4 triples and has batted in 19 runs. DeKoff is the top man in RBIs with 20 and has stolen 15 bases in 15 attempts. Bongard also has 19 RBIs, and Satriano leads the team in stolen bases with 22 in 24 attempts.
The Vikings are batting .338 and have stolen 88 bases in 96 atempts.
Senior pitcher David Masi threw a two-hitter in the 2-1 win over Beverly Hills, and his record is 8-1. Norman catcher Marc Bender homered off Masi in that pivotal game, but Bender's towering drive failed to make a dent in Masi's earned run average, of 1.71. DeKoff brought home the winning run in the game with a perfectly executed squeeze bunt.
If Masi is the ace of the pitching staff, the Schwengels are at least a pair of deuces.
Kurt, the varsity's top relief pitcher the last two years, was 4-0 with a 1.22 ERA in 1986. This year he had a couple of bad outings early in the season and is 1-2 with a 3.05 ERA. But he has set a CIF record this year for saves in one season, nine, putting him ahead of Noah Rosen, who earned eight for Crossroads in 1984.
Kris was the top starter for the junior varsity last year and had a 6-2 record with an ERA, he said, of "1 or below." This year he is 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA.
Diaz said he wanted Kris to play for the junior varsity last year to give him a lot of work to prepare him for the varsity this year. He said Kurt was brought up to the varsity last year because he needed a good relief pitcher.
Kris, six minutes older than Kurt, is 5-10 and 170 pounds. Kurt is 5-10 and 157. Diaz said Kris "is a littler quicker than Kurt in terms of his fastball and is physically stronger. Both have good fastballs and good high-school breaking pitches. Kris can get you out on his fastball. Kurt's out pitch is his breaking ball."
Diaz was a catcher and Tim Leary of the Dodgers was a pitcher for the Santa Monica High School team that won a Bay League championship in 1976, and both later played for the Santa Monica American Legion team (Post 123) that won a national championship in 1976. Diaz later played at Brigham Young.