“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Charles Dickens’ opened in his 1859 novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. It could easily have characterized the series that decided the 2013 Ocean League baseball title.
Culver City High, the defending champs, lost both games to Santa Monica High by scores of 3-1 and 7-4, relinquishing the title back to their archrivals. Samohi was crowned with a perfect 10-0 record while the Centaurs finished second in league play with an 8-2 record.
Culver was then scheduled at Elsinore High in the first round of the CIF Baseball playoffs on Thursday.
More importantly though, the Culver City baseball program made an impressive impact on the school for its home game last Tuesday.
To say a standing-room only, capacity crowd that featured parents, students, concessionaires, cheer squads, teachers, administrators as well as the school’s other sports teams that left spring practices early to support their Centaur baseball squad is an understatement.
Time-Warner Cable’s ‘CIF Game of the Week’ was at the diamond capturing the action and later broadcasted the game multiple times during the past weekend. Despite inclement weather, Coach Rick Prieto, his staff, the players, their parents and local volunteers worked the weekend to help prepare the field.
By game time the sun was shining as white clouds rolled by a beautiful looking field in its upgraded surroundings.
Jay Sterner started the game for Culver but Samohi quickly jumped to a 2-0 lead as missed opportunities were the Centaurs’ ultimate undoing in both games.
Prieto described the first, “Right off the bat Jay was pitching well and had the leadoff batter off-balance but he flared one over the second base for a base hit and we pick him off. It looked like we should have gotten him thrown out at second.” But the runner beat the throw and a ground chopper off an infielder enabled another run to score.
The Centaurs counter-attacked immediately. Darian Sylvester nailed a double to the right field fence and came home on Tim Stewart’s sharp single to right. Culver loaded the bases but couldn’t capitalize.
Both pitchers settled down and worked out of tight situations. In the third inning, Daniel Hennessy reached third base on a long sacrifice fly by Stewart but the Centaurs failed to score on a delayed double-steal. In the fifth Sylvester slammed one to deep center only to have it caught a few feet short of the fence.
Louie Ortega relieved Sterner on the mound in the seventh and had a two out, two strike count on the Viking batter before a bloop fly fell in short center for a 3-1 lead.
Prieto concluded, “Unfortunately there was no timely hitting. We had the bases loaded in the first inning. If you’re going to be a champion you’re going to have to be able to come up in those situations and get the job done and we didn’t.”
On Thursday in Santa Monica Sylvester jumped on the heralded Viking starter Conner Greene with a first inning single and used his speed to score on an error for a 1-0 lead.
Prieto continued, “The game at Samohi started off very similar to here. We score a run in the first inning. They score a run in the first inning. But in the second inning we had an opportunity to stop the bleeding after a couple of runs.”
“Kelvin Murillo made a great play on that ball to his left, sprawling out, throwing from his seat and almost got the lead runner on that play. After that, it was a walk, a double, double down the line and then a missed ball by added two or three unearned runs.”
Subsequent opportunities were wasted: the leadoff batter got thrown out at third before Sterner scored in the fifth. A groundout ended the inning with runners on second and third. The Centaurs put two more runners on second and third in the sixth before a strikeout stopped that rally.
Prieto finished, “We kept fighting. There was no quit in the team. Eli came in and did a great job for two innings as did Louis and they didn’t score after that. We capped it with an exciting seventh inning.”
After the first four batters reached base, a walk and a sacrifice fly made the game 7-4. A single loaded the bases, sending the next two batters to the plate with the potential go-ahead runs. Alas, a strikeout and a groundout sealed the Centaurs’ fate.
As Dickens succinctly envisioned, “… we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”