A Torrance Press article from 1957 reports: “The City of Torrance has virtually grown up around the US Steel Torrance Works.”
56 years later and just around the corner from where the former plant stood, the Culver City High baseball team visited the historically well-tempered Torrance High Tartars in their picturesque yet intimidating ball park, using the game as a forging process to further test and strengthen the Centaurs’ program.
The final result was a hardened Culver City squad that held off several determined Tartar rallies while hammering out a 6-4 victory.
Centaur Coach Rick Prieto emphasized, “It was a huge win for the program but more importantly for the team because it created a huge momentum swing.
“Torrance, I believe in the last six years they’ve gone to the Stadium, which is the CIF Championship, three times. So when our get an opportunity to compete against them we’re measuring ourselves with the best teams.”
Prieto marshalled his team before the game started, “I saw a Torrance team come out taking pre-game, confident that they had a pretty good club and that they were going to win the ballgame.”
He continued, “And I sold that to our players: “Look it. They’re out here thinking they’re going to beat us today and we know better than that. We know that we can play with anybody and that we can beat anybody on any given day. And this is going to be the day.”
And on this day team defense played a prominent role. Instrumental was the trio of sophomore pitchers: Jay Sterner, Louis Ortega and Eli Bowie who formed an effective battery with sophomore catcher David Ko.
Darian Sylvester added a towering insurance home run and helped pull off several defensive gems to erase late game rallies.
The Centaur bats struck repeatedly, scoring four runs in the first three innings. Sylvester singled and scored in the first. Juan Alcala doubled and scored on Kelvin Murillo’s single in the second. In the third Sylvester cracked a double off the top of the fence in left field. A single by Sterner, an infield RBI by Tim Stewart and a double by Nate Matthews made it 4-0.
Matthews related, “Our hitting really came through. We scored early and just jumped on them. That gave our pitchers a cushion to pitch with. I think that made Jay more comfortable on the mound. He kept the batters off balance and had them hitting ground balls.”
While Sterner kept the Torrance bats silent he created a virtual steel curtain with third baseman Daniel Hennessy, Sylvester at shortstop and second baseman Mike Netzel, trapping any balls hit their way while Alcala commanded a solid infield anchor at first base.
Matthews concurred, “We played sound defense the whole time. We were able to keep the ball in front of us and make the plays we needed to make.”
The Tartars responded in the bottom of the fourth with their first run. The Centaurs countered with three singles by Hennessy, Stewart and Alcala, pushing the lead to 5-1. A hit batsman and a double brought Torrance one run closer.
Prieto on the pitching change one out later, “We gauged Jay’s pitch count and it was time to move him. We came in with Louis Ortega in relief and he did a great job.” Definitive was a perfect relay from Murillo to Sylvester to Netzel nabbing a runner at second to end the rally following a long RBI fly to left.
The top of the sixth is when Sylvester belted one deep into the trees beyond the left field fence giving the momentum back to Culver City at 6-3. Matthews offered, “Darian Sylvester really had a come-out game. He had a couple of big hits. He’s been attacking the pitchers and his defense has been solid the whole time.”
But a retaliatory home run by the Tartars in the bottom of the seventh brought Prieto to the mound for his final move.
“It was a perfect opportunity to come in with a one out situation to give Ely one right-handed batter to get ready. And if he happens to get on, so be it. Then we have the lefty on deck, we’ll get him to hit into a double play. That’s my philosophy. But he ended up getting the right-hander to ground out to third base and then the lefty swung at the first pitch. He hit a semi-deep drive. Our outfielders are ready for balls like that and Nate went back and made a nice catch.
“Game over. That’s basically our philosophy. Focus on the little things. Stay positive and all the other things will fall in place.”
Culver will begin Ocean League play Tuesday against Beverly Hills.