By Fred Altieri
It's time to keep score in a brand new way. Culver City High baseball opens its 2014 Ocean League campaign this week on the road against Beverly Hills High on Tuesday afternoon.
Two days later the two rivals battle it out in Culver City on the Centaurs home field, complete with a new scoreboard that was funded with a very generous donation from a local pizza restaurant.
Culver head baseball coach Rick Prieto invited everyone to show up in appreciation to the donors as well as to present the new electronic scoreboard to the fans: "On Saturday, April 12th, at approximately 11-11:30 a.m. is when we're having a ceremony for Thomas and Leah Schiffer from Grey Block Pizza who donated the money for our new scoreboard."
"We want to thank them for what they've done. As soon as the Challenger's program is over, We're going to have all three baseball teams: varsity, JV and freshman; school board members Dave LaRose and Mike Reynolds; principal Dylan Farris and athletic director Tom Salter to honor and present a replica check of Tom and Leah's $30,000 donation.
"The ceremony will be followed by the frosh/soph team vs. Carson High with the donors watching their scoreboard in action. We will be working the scoreboard this Thursday for the varsity's team home-opener against Beverly Hills High."
Along with coaches Steve Benson and Ron Ozaki, Coach Prieto has put the varsity squad to the pre-league test by scheduling 14 games over the past five weeks in preparing for league action.
Prieto gave his report: "The Anaheim Lions Tournament was something that we had pre-planned. The tournament was our best option to prepare for this coming season. And boy, what a challenge it was.
"We opened up with Mira Costa and what a great game that was, a 2-1 victory."
"Jay Sterner threw very well. The defense played well and timely hitting allowed us to win that game. We then battled Golden Valley and took a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning. They scored two runs until we finally got the final out to win 4-2.
"Then we played in Anaheim. It was a great opportunity for the coaching staff to reward our players for their hard work and dedication. We spent two nights at the Red Lion Hotel. We had a breakfast buffet in the morning. We treated them to an Angel game against the Seattle Mariners. It was really a great trip for the players.
"We played San Juan Hills, a Division 2 school out of the Orange County area. They beat us 4-0. They had a good pitcher, good defense. We had four scoring opportunities but were unable to score.
"Ramona High out of Riverside was our fourth opponent. They took early leads of 3-0, 5-1, 6-1 and we just put it together and scored six runs in the top of the seventh to take a 7-6 lead. Then we shut them down in the bottom of the inning to win that ball game. That was a great victory but more importantly I think it was a confidence builder amongst our program and players because we came back from being down six runs to win a ball game.
"Then we played Capistrano Valley High. That was the best game to really assess and evaluate our team because they're a top Division 1 school. We hung in there. We started Jake Wells. He went two innings. Our freshman, Daniel Aceves, shut them out for two innings. We just didn't have enough arms to pitch against them but defensively we did well.
"We've played 14 games this season. We won nine of them and beat some pretty good teams. San Fernando Valley was ranked in the top 25 by the L.A. Times when we beat them 3-1. That was huge. We beat Sylmar and Mira Costa which are very good baseball programs. There's not a game we lost that we couldn't have won had we gotten a hit here or there or maybe a defensive play there.
"We're ready for league, no question and I'm real excited about this opening day lineup: Tomas Saucedo, left field, sophomore; Nolan Martinez, centerfield, sophomore; Michael Netzel, right field, sophomore; Jacob Weiner, first base, sophomore; Christian De los Santos, second base, junior; Darian Sylvester, shortstop, senior; Kelvin Murillo, third base, sophomore; Jay Sterner, starting pitcher, junior; Daniel Hennessy, catcher, senior.
"Our designated hitter is either going to be Max Sterner, freshman, or David Ko, junior. I might just give them both opportunities. We have Louis Ortega as our closer, junior, and Jake Wells, closer, senior. We're looking good for opening day."