March 4, 2013 |

Centaur Baseball Continues Early Season Success

Baseball is a team sport and is often noted for its mystical association with the world of numbers. So far the 2013 Culver City High baseball team is performing as a very good team while displaying an aptitude for creating very good numbers.

In the second week of action the Centaurs played three games in four days and won two.

They took the high scoring offense from their Opening Day 12-0 shutout victory over Hoover on the road to Venice High on Wednesday, February 27, and scored another 12 runs while yielding only four.

Just like last week the Centaurs’ offense inflicted heavy damage in the first inning by scoring four runs before an out was recorded in the game.

Darien Sylvester reached second base on an error and a stolen base. Jay Sterner singled to left. Daniel Hennessy walked to load the bases and set the stage for cleanup hitter Tim Stewart.

After working the count to 3 and 1, Stewart put the next pitch over the right field fence for the Centaurs’ first grand slam of the season. Stewart has a double, triple, home run, three runs scored, eight rbi’s and a .750 batting average in his first five at bats this season.

But the Gondoliers scratched their way back with one run in each of the first three innings. Culver City answered with three of their own in the next two innings with contributions from Nate Hughes, Kelvin Murillo, Sylvester, a Tim Stewart single (now hitting for the cycle within a two- game timeframe and now unofficially dubbed ‘Hitting For The Stewart Cycle’) and Michael Netzel.

The Centaur defense came up ‘big’ in the bottom of the fourth when first baseman Juan Alcala raced and dived headfirst into the bag to beat the Gondolier batter to nail the first out.

Next came a spectacular sliding catch by right fielder Max Akita for out number two.

Coach Rick Prieto on the team’s building structure, “We build on our defense. Our defense is our number one priority hand-in-hand with our pitching and then the offense comes in and pulls up the rear there.”

An appreciative Jay Sterner, the starting pitcher, took care of out number three by striking out the third batter looking. Sterner, who pitched the first four innings and was relieved by Hughes, now has a 2-0 won-lost record in Culver City’s first two games of the year.

The Centaurs’ first lost of the season came two days later in Friday’s March 1 contest against Birmingham High. Culver City starting pitcher Eli Bowie, reliever Moises Amadar and the rest of the squad kept the game close, had their chances but came up short against the home team Patriots, 5-3..

The real question was how this team was going to respond in their home game against Pacifica High the following day. Last week Prieto gave an insight into the deep roster changes from last year’s veteran squad.

“The change has been I've lost 12 seniors to graduation, all very good quality young men, student athletes. We only have three returning varsity players this year and two with varsity experience that were in the lineup today from last year. So we only have five young men that have played varsity baseball.”

Well, the team passed with flying colors on Saturday at home against Oxnard Pacifica High in a classic low scoring nail-biting duel that went into extra innings.

The Centaurs finally pulled it out with a dramatic walk-off hit by Sylvester in the bottom of the ninth for a 3-2 victory.

The seesaw affair began immediately with Pacifica quickly attacking in the first inning with a solo run against Centaur starting pitcher Hughes. The Centaurs scored a run in the bottom of the third after Pacifica had taken 2-0 lead. But the young Culver City squad was matching stroke for stroke this day and tapped home plate once again the very next inning.

Louis Ortega Jr. took over the mound for the Centaurs in the sixth inning and Daniel Hennessy came on for relief in the seventh. The Tritons didn’t score the rest of the game.

After both teams squandered opportunities to push a run across the Centaurs wasted little time in the bottom of the ninth. Jonathan Im took first with a strategic bunt single. Sylvester then hit a deep fly to right center that brought the speedster Im home for the win.

So after four games into the season Prieto’s young but determined squad stands at three victories and one defeat. But there is nothing mystical about their early season success as Prieto stated at the beginning of the season, “We have a freshman at third, a freshman at second, that's young. And they're just coming out of the middle school but they're doing a great job.

“We have a returning all-league shortstop and we have a couple of guys stepping up a doing a good job. They work extremely hard and

they’re prepared to play baseball.”

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