Culver City Observer -

Culver Baseball Eyes Playoff Berth

 

April 30, 2015

Fred Altieri

Jay Sterner at bat

By Fred Altieri

Sports Reporter

Baseball 2015, Ocean League style, is no walk in the park. The Culver City High Centaurs are currently 2-2 in competition with three crucial series remaining on their schedule.

Archrival and league defending champion Santa Monica High is the next test this week. At stake is the league title and the now-difficult task of qualifying for the CIF Playoffs that starts in three weeks.

Part of the early sense of urgency has to do with the two new league additions: Lawndale High and El Segundo High. The Centaurs opened action two weeks ago by shutting out Lawndale twice, 1-0 and 7-0, before being swept by El Segundo last week, 5-1 and 4-0.

The Centaurs quickly snapped their losses by shutting out Poly High 8-0 on Saturday, April 25, on the combined arms of Eli Bowie, Eli Saucedo and Max Sterner and a rediscovered hitting attack that has been missing for much of the season.

Head coach Rick Prieto on the league race: "Someone is not going to the playoffs this year. Right now El Segundo and Santa Monica are 4-0. Beverly Hills and Hawthorne are always tough. From our past history with Lawndale, they've been very competitive.

"If you look at the two horses, Santa Monica and El Segundo, until they play each other they can probably be perfect. You have Beverly Hills, Hawthorne and Culver City fighting for one playoff spot. That's huge now."

The victories over Lawndale began on the road with a four-hit, six-strikeout shutout by southpaw Jay Sterner. He scored the game's only run in the second inning on a double by Nolan Martinez.

"Jay started against Lawndale and that's why we won because he shut them out. It's what we expect from Jay," stated Prieto.

Two days later at home the Centaurs scored all seven runs in the bottom of the first inning. Martinez unloaded a three-run homer. He also matched Sterner's previous effort by pitching a one-hit, ten-strikeout gem. Adding to the hitting barrage were doubles by Jacob Weiner, David Ko, and Mason Mulvihill.

Culver's fortunes were short-lived as they took their first league loss against El Segundo. "We lost at home 5-1 but the score going into the seventh inning was 2-1 and Jay was throwing a great game. But they scored three in the seventh. If we were up I might have changed our decisions in the seventh," said Prieto.

"We missed a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the sixth inning with runners at first and second. We also committed two errors that resulted in runs. Those were outs, they don't score and it's probably a 1-0 ballgame."

Martinez started Thursday's game at El Segundo and despite allowing only four hits to the Eagles, they scored four runs, two of them coming after he had left the game in the fourth inning. Louie Ortega pitched 1 1/3 inning of relief while Hunter Hutchinson pitched a scoreless sixth inning.

But it was the Centaur offense that continued to sputter as they had only five hits. Prieto: "We had an opportunity to score in the second inning. Nolan Martinez hit a double. We got him over to third but we just couldn't drive him in. It would have been nice to take the lead there.

"It's the offense that concerns me. We need timely hitting. We need to clutch-up when we have runners in scoring position. We need to keep working on it.

"All season we haven't missed a beat with our pitching and we haven't missed a beat with our defense. We've made a couple of errors here and there but we are par or better with our defense than we've been in the last few years."

Fittingly, the unique outfield layout of El Segundo's Stevenson Field served as a stage for the defensive play of the year. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning Centaur left fielder Tyler Hendershot made a mad dash for deep left-center field on a shot by Eagle batter Jackson Stone.

The outfield inclines upwards from 10 to 15 feet at the base of the entire outfield fence. Hendershot tracked the fly ball while running full-steam into and up the grassy ramp. He leaped and body-slammed upon the slope of the ground just short of the fence while he snared the ball with the outstretched glove on his left hand.

Fred Altieri

Daniel Aceves' mighty swing

He pulled the ball out his glove with his bare right hand and raised it back towards the ball field to the delight of the crowd. The fans stood and cheered while his teammates swarmed him into the dugout.

"Tyler's catch was unbelievable. When you have your opponent's fans stand up and the players giving him acknowledgement, that say's something. My wife was beyond the fence in left-center when he caught it in front of her. The El Segundo fans told her that they've never seen a catch like that. So I thought that was beautiful. Outstanding," said Prieto.

Coach wrapped it up: "If we sweep this week we're right in it. So there are a lot of scenarios. I just want everyone to keep coming out and supporting our players. They are working extremely hard and still committed to the end. Come out and see us. Keep supporting us."

 

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