Tri-Valley Trials

Junior Max Gordon, safe at first base

A good swing, strong base running and a comedy of errors on defense ignited a brief offensive explosion for the Malibu High baseball team against the visiting Rio Mesa Spartans on April 7.

With two Sharks on base, sophomore Alec Morrison whacked a pitch from the Spartans pitcher into the outfield for a double. Morrison’s hit drove in sophomore Russell Kish and senior Chance Irons for runs, but an error by the Oxnard-based Spartans allowed Morrison to advance from second base to third base, then to home plate, where a grinning Kish greeted him with a bear hug. 

Morrison’s chop of the ball put three runs on the board for the Sharks, who wound up losing, 10-4, to the Spartans, the two-time defending champs of the Pacific View League. Morrison said the scoring trot around the bases happened in a peculiar way, but was fun.

“All my teammates were really excited from me—that made me feel good,” he said.

Malibu coach Billy Ashley, the owner of 28 home runs from his time as a Major League Baseball player, said five-foot-five Morrison’s powerful hit gave the Sharks a shot of energy. 

“I love the fact that Alec was swinging the bat better today,” he said. “He is an integral part of the team. He’s not a big guy, but he has big guy swings.” 

The Morrison-driven runs and another score were not enough points against the Spartans, though. Rio Mesa poured on the scoring at the Shark Tank—Malibu’s home baseball field—to grab victory. The contest is one of several games in a weekend baseball tournament bracket organized by the Chatsworth baseball team. 

Malibu will play in two more Chatsworth tourney games, in addition to vying for the top spot in the standings of the seven-team Tri-Valley League. 

Ashley said since Rio Mesa was not a league opponent, he used the matchup as an opportunity to give the Sharks inexperienced players an opportunity to bat against an opposing pitcher and play defense against a team from a higher division. So, the lineup was a mix of starters and non-starters. 

“This allowed us to see what we can do with some of the guys if they need to be called upon off the bench,” Ashley said. “For the most part, they swung the bat well and had a couple of hits.” 

Some hitting highlights included doubles by junior Lewis Barron and senior Will Tamkin. Tamkin scored Malibu’s first run of the game a few minutes later. 

The matchup was junior pitcher Tanner Rubin’s first start on the mound this season. The left-handed 11th-grader is working his way back from an injury to his elbow. 

Rubin said he was a bit nervous but stayed focused on his throwing mechanics and how he wanted to deliver the ball past batters and into the catcher’s glove.

“Command is the major key,” he said. 

“It was good to have him out there to get his pitches in,” Ashley said. 

Senior Tyler Ray relieved Rubin on the mound after five innings. 

The loss to Rio Mesa was Malibu’s fourth game of the week. The Sharks played Carpinteria twice and Santa Paula once—both league opponents—to make up for matchups originally scheduled earlier in the season but canceled because of bad weather.

The Sharks lost to Santa Paul, 7-3, on April 3, then defeated Carpinteria, 15-1, two days later. Carpinteria beat Malibu the following day. 

Irons, a first baseman and co-captain with Ray, said the two losses should have been victories.

“Our mentality should be to sweep every league team,” he said. 

Malibu’s other victories this season were over Bishop Diego, twice, and Santa Paula, once. The Sharks’ other losses were to Harvard-Westlake, Oaks Christian, Kennedy, La Cañada and El Camino Real.

Malibu played at Nordoff, another league opponent, on Wednesday and will host the team on Friday. The Sharks play Grant on Saturday in the Chatsworth tournament. Malibu goes against Tri-Valley-foe Fillmore on April 18 and 20. They have three more league games, another tournament game and one more make-up contest before the end of the regular season.

Irons said finishing at the top of the Tri-Valley League is the team’s goal. 

“We really need our team to focus on who they are as players,” he said. “If they are a skill player, power hitter, we need to do our job at the plate.” 

Ashley said being smart at the plate and managing their emotion as a unit can lead to a Malibu triumph. The coach said Malibu’s wins have been explosive, while their losses have been the opposite.

“It’s one of those things where we are riding a high emotion and winning, but the minute things go south, it’s like a team plague and everybody is down,” he said. “I love the fact they are emotional, but they need to be able to turn it off.”

Morrison, the utility player, said the Sharks want to maintain good energy.

“It will translate to wins,” he said, “keeping up energy and having fun.”