Classic Greek mythology reveals that the Centaurs originated from clouds. So it was very apropos when omniscient gray clouds made their entrance just as the Culver City High baseball team took the home field against Palisades on Tuesday, March 5.
Fittingly, the Centaurs responded to the elements with a very convincing 10-1 victory.
Starting pitcher Jay Sterner recorded two innings of perfect ball and four strikeouts. Balancing his efforts were the Culver City bats as senior centerfielder Tim Stewart’s two run shot over the fence in the second inning made it a foretelling 4-0 lead.
Stewart on the team’s early season success, “We got a new (assistant) coach, Coach Roux. He’s our offensive coach. He’s helped a lot with improving my swing and pretty much everyone else’s swing in our program and our approach in the batter’s box.”
Reliever Luis Orteta, Jr. held Palisades to one run in the next two innings. Three more Centaur tallies made the score 7-1 after four, setting the table for their third sophomore pitcher of the game, Eli Bowie. He kept the Dolphins off balance for the final three innings, allowing no runs and only one baserunner while Culver City pushed three more across the plate in the fifth.
After the victory Coach Rick Prieto gathered his team near the left field line for their postgame ritual while the setting sun was taking its first and last bow through the dissipating clouds.
Let’s Play Two!
Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop slugger Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs was fond of saying, “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let’s play two!” And so it was a perfectly beautiful day at Culver City High Baseball Field when the visiting Capistrano Valley Christian arrived for the season’s first twin-bill. The event matched the hype as the fans were treated to two knockdown drag-out one-run affairs with both outcomes decided by an umpire’s balk call.
The Centaurs took a 1-0 lead in first game while starter Nate Matthews held the Eagles scoreless through two innings. Capistrano evened it up before Centaurs Kelvin Murillo and Darian Sylvester got on with two perfect bunts to start the bottom of the third. That’s all the hot-hitting Stewart needed as he a powered a blast to right-center for a two-run double.
Stewart recalled, “I fell behind early and was just looking for something to hit, something off-speed, but he came with a fastball again and it was outside so I just took it to the gap. It caught a lot of the plate so it wasn’t hard to drive out there.”
Daniel Hennessy followed with towering double and a 4-1 lead.
Capistrano answered in the fourth with two runs. But the Centaurs immediately countered with two of their own including one on a balk call to make it 6-3. But just like a heavyweight prizefight, the Eagles landed a jab with a matching balk run in the top of the fifth. And they didn’t stop landing shots until they nailed three more in the sixth, two on a bunt single.
But the Centaurs were determined not to let this fight slip away. Murillo and Sylvester applied pressure with two walks. Two wild pitches and two more walks tied the score and the Eagles were back on the ropes. That’s when the fatal balk was called giving Culver City a one run lead going into the last inning.
Centaur catching and hitting coach Sterling Roux explained, “On the balk calls today, the deal is you’re supposed to come to a full pause, then throw. But they would continue through the throw instead of holding it for a brief second.”
Nine pitches later Bowie retired the Capistrano side in order for an 8-7 decision, leaving both teams exhausted with another game yet to play.
The second game turned into a pitching duel. The Eagles scored in the top of the first inning against starting pitcher Jay Sterner and the Centaurs responded with Hennessy’s crushing triple to right-center, scoring Sylvester who had singled.
Sterner struck out the Capistrano side in the second but they were about to nick him in the next inning. Once again, and for the fifth time of the day, a balk was called giving the Eagles a one run lead.
The final 4 ½ innings remained scoreless and when the last strikeout was called, Capistrano earned a doubleheader split as the Centaur bats were unable to put a dent in the Eagles’ starting pitcher who went the distance for the 2-1 win.
Coach Roux reiterated, “The first game we swung at better pitches. We hit the ball more crisply. We didn’t allow the ball to travel deep into us and swing back. “
We had some mechanically good swings. We didn’t drop the barrel of the bat in back of us and try to make a big round swing. We had some good aggressive swings and we hit the ball much harder.”
So Culver City stands at five wins and two losses after three weeks of non-league ball.
Stewart is positive about the team’s future, “Right now we’re playing good solid teams in non-league games to get prepared for league and then the CIF. I feel like we can go undefeated in league as long as we continue to improve and we play our ball during the games. Our goal is to win the CIF.”