Culver Splits Opening League Series
Eli Bowie on the mound
By Fred Altieri
Culver City High baseball opened its 2014 Ocean League season with their biggest offensive thrust to date last Tuesday as they ventured to the Beverly Hills High home field at La Cienega Park and routed them 14-0.
It was a reversal of fortune two days later as the Normans visited the Culver campus and beat the Centaurs 2-1, ruining their league home-opener as well as the inauguration of the team's brand new scoreboard courtesy of Grey Block Pizza.
Culver is now tied for third with Beverly after one week of league play with both at 1-1. Santa Monica and Inglewood are tied for first place with 2-0 records after beating Hawthorne and Morningside respectively, both whom are 0-2 and tied for last place. Ocean League action will recommence next week due to spring break scheduling.
The Centaurs finally unleashed their lethal offense in the very first inning of Tuesday's game. Third baseman Kelvin Murillo, who was a perfect 4/4 at the plate for the game, said the team was prepared: "We knew what we were up against playing Beverly Hills. Last year we went into extra innings against them. We won that game but this year we wanted to prove that we were a better team.
"We tried to give our pitchers an early, comfortable lead to work with. We did that. We scored six runs in the first inning. I believe we scored three more in the second inning. We feel very comfortable about the game when we give our starting pitcher Jay Sterner a lead to work with."
Sterner didn't allow a run in winning his third game of the year, tying him with Eli Bowie for most wins on the team this year.
Murillo had an immediate impact on the Culver baseball program last year when he started and finished the entire season holding down the hot corner at third base. Surprisingly, it was not the fielding position he played learning the game before he made the varsity squad as a freshman. "Coming into high school, I actually was a shortstop and a second baseman. Since we already had a great shortstop, Darian Sylvester, I converted to third base. I wouldn't say that the transition was tough, I did whatever was best for the team. Coming into this year I knew what to expect."
He continues to develop and refine his defensive skills: "The difference from playing shortstop is that the ball is coming much quicker when playing third base. There's not much time to react. Every practice we work on bunting defense. Coach Prieto realized that I'm a shortstop and that I'm not used to playing third base so he has really prepared me for that."
Murillo had four singles out of the 13 total hits by the Centaurs and scored three runs. Sylvester and Michael Netzel also had two hits and two runs scored each. Tomas Saucedo and Sterner scored two runs each as well. Nolan Martinez, Jake Weiner, David Ko and Daniel Hennessy also contributed to the hit total.
Thursday's game at Culver High was a classic pitching duel with Eli Bowie starting for the Centaurs. Even though he only yielded two runs, Beverly's first batter delivered the Normans' biggest hit of the game in the first inning with a leadoff triple. The following batter singled him home for a 1-0 lead. Beverly was on its way to its first victory over Culver since 2010.
Murillo acknowledged the Beverly pitching yet the Culver players were not happy about the result: "Their pitcher was definitely hitting his spots. He had a good off-speed pitch but that's still no excuse for us not scoring more than one run."
Beverly got insurance in the fourth inning when their leadoff batter struck out but took first base on a passed ball third strike. Three consecutive singles brought him home before Bowie struck out the last two batters to get out of a bases-loaded jam. That seemed to light up the Centaurs when Martinez scored their solo run in the bottom of the inning.
But Culver was also unable to take advantage several times according to Murillo: "We just couldn't string together hits. Maybe we were a little relaxed because of our earlier 14-0 win."
The first missed opportunity occurred when Martinez led off the second inning with a triple. Alas, he was stranded as the Norman pitcher proceeded to strike out the side. That set the tone for the rest of the game.
Murillo is confident about team's future: "We're a very young team and had a number of the players here on our summer ball team. As sophomores and freshmen on the team, we understand the game and that's why we're successful. I feel more comfortable this year after starting last year at third base as a freshman. I can tell the other guys joining the team what it's like everyday and how to prepare to play ball at Culver High."