Opening Day holds a special place in the annals of baseball lore and the Saturday morning non-league game between Glendale Hoover High and Culver City, last year's Ocean League champions, only reinforced the tradition.
It was 10 a.m., the sun was out in Culver City, the temperature was a perfect 65 degrees, there was a slight breeze out of the northwest and the bleachers behind home plate were filling up.
Two hours later to the minute the blue and white clad Culver City faithful were rewarded when the game was stopped after 5 1/2 innings in an overpowering 12-0 shutout victory by Coach Rick Prieto's Culver City team.
Coach Prieto was impressed, "It's all about winning. You put all the hard work up to game time and we went out and won a good ball game,” he said.
Dominant pitching, bolstered by a solid defense, patient yet confident hitting and aggressive baserunning was the story of the day for the Centaurs.
The Tornadoes immediately made things interesting as they loaded the bases after two outs in the top of the first inning with two hit batsmen and a walk. But starting sophomore pitcher Eli Bowie, a southpaw and throwing his first ever varsity start, settled down and was able to strike out the third out after going down 3 and 1 in the count to get the Centaurs out of the jam.
"We threw a sophomore, a first-time varsity start for Eli Bowie and he did a great job,” said Prieto.
“That was a very good outing for him, first time out for a varsity player."
Culver City's bats struck quickly in the bottom of the first inning when leadoff batter and All-League shortstop Darien Sylvester, a junior, hit a high drive to center which couldn't be handled by Hoover and ended up sliding safely into third by sheer hustle.
A hit-by-pitch, a walk and a wild pitch brought home the Centaurs’ first run of the year followed by a bases-clearing triple down the left field line by senior centerfielder Tim Stuart. By the end of the inning, Culver City sent 10 batters to the plate while scoring five runs. Hoover never recovered.
The Tornadoes were held off-balance by Eli's pitching for the next few innings until he took a mean one on the left shin by a hard grounder up the middle with two out in the top of the third. The Culver City coaching staff decided to relieve him with sophomore Jay Steiner, starting right fielder and another lefty who was already warming up in the bullpen between innings. They also brought in David Coe to catch for him, moved starting catcher Daniel Hennessy to third base
And this was all by pre-design.
"He (Eli Bowie) was going to be taken out at the end of the third inning anyway. That was 2 and 2/3 (innings) so that worked out. I had Jay Sterner who was following him already in the pen getting hot. It just transferred from the pen to the game so it kind of worked out as planned.
“We couldn’t develop a catcher this year so we took our best athlete and that's Daniel Hennessey. He's done a great job back there."
"I came in a little earlier from the bullpen and just wanted to work into my groove,” said Steiner.
“Everything was working well and I went through batter after batter.”
Despite the departure of 12 seniors from last year’s championship squad Prieto is determined for the Centaurs to defend their title and go even further in the CIF playoffs.
‘i expect to win the Ocean League,” he said. “ All the non-league games are across the board for everyone to assess their rosters.
“And for us, yes we kind of have an idea of who our starters are and in order for us to make sure that those are the right fits for our team these games allow us to find out.”
The Centaurs were scheduled to play Wednesday in a non-league game at Venice.