Culver City Observer -

Two Playoff Wins Add To Culver's Remarkable Streak

That's 15 Straight Baseball Victories

 

Fred Altieri

Tomas Saucedo scores deciding run before the dust settles

The 2016 Centaurs are playing baseball like the gears of a fine watch keeping time. Culver City High advanced into the CIF Baseball Playoff Quarterfinal Round for the first time since 2011 season when the team reached the semifinal round.

The Centaurs won a tense 2-1 game on Tuesday, May 24 against the San Luis Obispo Tigers in a second round playoff matchup. Southpaw starter Eli Saucedo's undaunted performance kept the Tiger batters off-balance for six innings.

Tomas Saucedo's mad dash and slide home on a wild pitch in the bottom of the fifth inning to score the go-ahead and winning run was the pivotal point of the game. It visibly and emotionally charged the Centaurs to complete their second playoff win of the post-season.

The Culver defense was second to none. That set the stage for right-hander Nolan Martinez who came in the seventh inning and threw heat to clinch the victory before a packed and lively home crowd.

"I was a little nervous but I tried not to show it. I threw my fastballs as hard as I could and my changeup, the best that I could do. The defense is always amazing. Big shout out to Mason Mulvihill in centerfield. That guy's just a stud," said Eli Saucedo.

The entire Culver defense made several spectacular and a number of excellent plays to stifle the potent Obispo offense. Mulvihill stated: "We have a solid pitching staff. We have two great starters in Nolan and Eli. They put the ball right to us in the field or they strike the batters out. It's a great feeling."

The Centaurs have won 15 consecutive games, a streak that started in early April, swept through the Ocean League and is now into the playoffs. The Centaurs won their first CIF game at home, Friday, May 20 when Martinez threw a complete game seven-inning shutout at the visiting Elsinore High Tigers 3-0.

"What a fantastic two games we've had in the first two rounds of the CIF Playoffs by these unbelievable young men. They worked extremely hard way back in August before this coming season. And wow... what a job," began Culver head coach Rick Prieto.

"The defense, it's the pitching, the timely hitting. Today it was timely and needed. Eli was changeup, fastball, curve all day long to keep them off-balance. You're looking at six innings as a lefty who's done a craftsman's job pitching. But all of a sudden 93 m.p.h. is coming at you from the other end.

"I don't know if you're going to be able to hit it and it was obvious that they couldn't. Eli and Nolan have both done a fantastic job. San Luis Obispo was the best team we've played all year."

Culver took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Martinez singled, stole second base and scored on Daniel Aceves hard hit ball up the middle that handcuffed the Tiger shortstop.

Meanwhile, Saucedo retired the first 11 Obispo batters before giving up a walk in the fourth inning. The Tigers got their first two hits and one run to tie the score 1-1 in the fifth inning.

Aceves reached first on an error to start off the bottom of the crucial fifth inning. Tomas Saucedo pinch ran for him. Justin Weiner's perfect sacrifice bunt moved him to second base. Kelvin Murillo moved him to third on a grounder. The wild pitch and Tomas Saucedo's alert slide home made it 2-1.

Eli Saucedo on bringing in Martinez to close the game: "I was alright. I was a little tired but if I needed to go I could have kept going. It was better to just bring in the fireball."

Saucedo acknowledged the important support the team gets from its role players: One of our big supporters is Andrew Calo. I have to give it to that guy because he doesn't play very much but he's there for the team 100% of the time. Overall the team effort is just amazing."

Martinez pitched a commanding 7-inning complete game against Elsinore in the first round game, allowing just three-hits, one walk while striking out seven. Only one Elsinore runner reached third base.

The Centaurs scored two runs in the fourth inning when Mike Netzel got things going with a leadoff double. Jacob Weiner drove him in with a single and later scored on an Eli Saucedo single.

The team added an insurance run in the sixth inning as Ryan Weiner led off with a double and scored sliding home beating the relay after Martinez drew a throw on an attempted steal at second base.

Instrumental to Culver's successful pitching this season is the work of pitching coach Dale St. John who joined the staff this season after 20 years of coaching at South Torrance, North Torrance and Morningside High.

St. John: "Nolan did a fantastic job against Elsinore. He maybe threw four of five changes during the entire ballgame. But if you mix up your curveball with different speeds, the fastballs coming in at 92 instead of 88... it's a big difference.

"I thought Nolan was very under control when the runners got in scoring position. We've had that situation many times during the year. We don't get nervous.

"The biggest thing is that the pitchers bought in to what my thinking is. Go out there and throw strikes, move the ball around. Don't be afraid to throw a pitch. We'll work on it."

Netzel's impact at the plate also didn't go unnoticed by St. John: "I thought Elsinore battled and their pitcher kept us off-balance. Once again, Mike Netzel started us off. He leads the inning off with a double.

Coach Chip Netzel and Centaur players exit the field

"He has nine triples and two home runs and I don't know how many doubles this season. When he gets to his second or third at-bat and we haven't done anything, we can count on Mike Netzel to do it for us. He's done it all year long."

Mulvihill concluded: "It was a great feeling. We knew going into the game with the expectations we had as a team after going undefeated in Ocean League. With the talent we have on this team, showing us how far we can actually go in the playoff run is a huge thing. We're going to carry that throughout the whole playoffs."

Culver City continuesits 2016 CIF Playoff run at 3:15 p.m. this Friday, May 27 at top-seeded Redondo Union High.

 

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