The Culver City High Baseball Express continues to gather steam as it speeds along toward its first Ocean League contest in early April.
The Centaurs played host to two teams for three games in Week #4 of non-league action. They took care of a stubborn Lawndale High team on Tuesday, March 12 with another late-game two run rally to post a 4-3 victory.
And on Saturday Centaur Coach Rick Prieto’s squad twice shut out Lennox Academy doubleheader.
The final scores of 21-0 and 15-0 are numbers the school’s football team would certainly be proud to register.
The Centaurs took a quick 2-0 lead from Lawndale as they have all season in their earlier wins. And it all begins with their leadoff batter and All-League shortstop, Darian Sylvester.
In his first at bat and in what is now typical fashion, he tagged a deep shot over the centerfielder’s head for a triple and proceeded to score on a wild pitch.
Sylvester affirmed, “My thought process during my at bats was to keep my shoulder open, get two eyes on the pitcher, keep my back leg strong, rotate off of that, keep my hands inside and extend through the ball.”
Centaur starting pitcher Eli Bowie held the Cardinals to three singles while striking out three and picking off one runner in three innings without giving up a run. But Lawndale scored two runs in the top of the fourth to even the score against ace Nate Matthews.
They grabbed the lead in the next inning with a single, a hit and run grounder and a ground-out RBI.
Prieto gathered the players near the third base line in front of the dugout as they came off the field. Culver City baseball fans have become very familiar with the coach’s methods that serve to refocus and galvanize his players.
And the response was positively effective.
Sylvester reached first on a hard grounder that ate the Cardinal shortstop up. The speedster then stole second and as his slide busted up the attempted throw and sent the ball trickling toward centerfield, he dashed to third and slid in safely ahead of the hurried throw from short center. Tim Stewart drove him home with the tying run three pitches later while taking third base when the well-tagged ball went through the right fielder. Daniel Hennessy got what would be the game-winning RBI with a very deep sacrifice fly to centerfield.
Culver City then called on Jay Sterner to keep the Lawndale bats quiet for the final two innings. He simply delivered two innings of perfect ball to get the save and move the team to its sixth victory of the young season.
Sylvester acclaimed, “We relied on our sophomore pitcher Jay Sterner. We know he’s a great pitcher. We knew he would get the job done so we relied on him to get his curve ball over the plate, fastballs on the outside corner and the defense did their job. The offense held up and we got the runs we needed.”
Gray overcast skies greeted Lennox Academy for Saturday’s twin encounter. The skies never cleared up for the Panthers above the field nor on the field. At 10:03 a.m. the Centaurs started Bowie for the second game in a row and the standard he set was stunning.
The first inning was a shell-shocker for the visiting team: three batters up, nine pitches thrown, nine strikes recorded translating into three strikeouts.
Sylvester on Bowie’s game, “Eli Bowie, a young sophomore, played JV last year. During summer and winter ball he worked real hard. He’s got his curve ball on. He’s got a nice solid fastball, fast enough to keep the hitters off-balance. He hits his spots and gets outs. That’s all you need.”
Culver City struck swiftly in the bottom of the first with four runs highlighted by Hennessy’s triple. The second inning was even more successful as they sent 12 men to the plate with seven scoring for an 11-0 lead. In the third inning Culver scored eight more runs.
Freshman Michael Netzel came on in relief for Culver City in the fifth inning to complete the no-hit shutout. The final Centaur pitching stats for the game -- 15 batters faced, eight strikeouts with only one runner reached base and that was from being hit by a pitch. The game was called after 4 ½ innings.
Game Two could have been rubber stamped from Game One. The Centaur pitching once again held the Panther bats at bay, yielding only one hit in 4 ½ innings.Moises Amador was the starter for Culver City, throwing four very effective innings, striking out five batters and allowing the one hit.
Sylvester started another game off with a triple. Ten minutes later six Centaurs had scored before the crowd had time to settle in. The onslaught continued plus one, including a triple each by Hennessy and Sylvester.
Sylvester summed up his teammates’ contributions, “Daniel Hennessy is another key player. We can put him at 3B, we can put him at catcher, we can have him pitch. He’s got a great bat, great hands and a good arm. He’s definitely a great asset for the team.”
Matthews pitched the last inning and forced a game-ending double play.