WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING Culver Baseball Team Honors Opponent Killed In Car Crash
March 30, 2017
Winning took a back seat in a Saturday afternoon baseball game at Culver City High on March 18. The Centaurs eventually outlasted a resilient and courageous South High Torrance team, 5-4. Earlier, both teams had gathered in the infield for a moment of silence before the first pitch was thrown.
"South had a shortstop, Jesse (Esphorst, Jr.), who passed away in a car accident two weeks ago. They had a game that day and the next day he's gone. It's real sad. Our prayers go to his family and the South Torrance baseball team," said Culver starting pitcher Eli Saucedo.
"We wrote them a sympathy card as a team. Also, Jesse's uniform number was number 10, so we hung up our blue Centaur jersey with the number 10 on their side of the dugout to let them know we're supporting them."
Culver City took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a single by Mason Le and an RBI double by Daniel Aceves. The Spartans tied the game in the second inning with a double and an RBI single. The Centaurs added two more runs in the third inning for a 3-1 lead.
Le, Aceves and Max Sterner started the inning with three consecutive singles to load the bases. Jason Zeidman followed with an RBI single before Saucedo drove in Aceves with an infield grounder. Soon the momentum swung once again as South took a 4-3 lead in the top of the fourth inning.
"South got a couple of things going their way for that fourth inning rally. Other than that I wasn't missing too much with my pitches. I didn't consider it a bad outing. I thought my pitches were fine overall," said Saucedo.
"But I really have to give it up to Andrew Calo. He's been the guy to step up. Andrew's emotion is really what brings the team together. He's the guy in the dugout that's cheering on every single play. And when he's on the mound you can tell he loves it. He's been getting the job done almost every single time."
Calo came in solid relief of Saucedo in the fourth inning with runners on second and third and no outs following a bases-loaded double. A run-down out at home plate started by Aceves, a lineout grab by second baseman Ryan Weiner and an infield popup back to Aceves ended the Spartan rally.
Saucedo: "Our defense is amazing and it always has been. Our number one thing in this program has been defense. When I'm up there pitching I know my infield is going to make every play, my outfield is going to make every catch, every single throw. And I have no doubt that they will do it."
The Centaurs rallied in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead for good. With one out Le and Aceves hit back-to-back singles. Max Sterner singled in Le. Zeidman singled in Aceves. Culver ended the game with 11 hits and two walks. South High had 10 hits and no walks. Both teams were shutout for last three innings.
"That's the plan: we can't be shut down after they score. If they score a lot of runs we have to come right back to show that we're still in the fight and keep punching. We're not going to stop until the last out," said Saucedo.
"It's not about racking up the hits, it's about clutching up. When there's a man on base we have to move him over, bunt him over, little things like that. That's what wins us ballgames."
"We're coming along on our hitting. I want to give a shout-out to Justin Weiner. That guy is on fire. He's leading the team in average and hits. I believe he's hitting .533. We definitely need him along with everyone else but he's the guy right now."
Offensively for the Centaurs, Le and Aceves each had three hits against South. Le scored three runs and stole one base. Aceves had an RBI double and scored twice. Sterner had two hits and an RBI. Saucedo and Zeidman each had a hit and an RBI. Bobby Capa added a single.
The Centaurs are scheduled to begin early Ocean League play at Lawndale High this Tuesday and then host the Cardinals at Culver High on April 6. The team will also continue to play in the Chatsworth Tournament during the weekends in April while playing their league schedule during the weekdays.
The Culver pitching and catching staffs will be tested. Senior varsity catcher Justin Weiner and sophomore backup James Roque will rotate as well as senior Matt Rummelsburg as needed.
Saucedo: "You really have to give our catchers Justin and James a lot of props. Justin played outfield his first three years of high school."
"We had Jake Weiner at catcher last year and the transfer between him and Justin is obviously pretty big. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill but I think Justin and James are doing an excellent job. I know they're pretty new to this but they've definitely come a long way and are starting to get a feel for it back there."
After the game with South High, players and coaches from both teams shook hands and appreciated each other as their lines crossed home plate. Thoughts of Jesse Esphorst, Jr. were certainly in their hearts and minds while the recovery from the tragedy continues for the class South Bay baseball program.
The many loyal South family, friends and fans who traveled from Torrance to attend the game reiterated the sentiments. They spoke of the manner and the character, the quality and the talent of the young sophomore student with so much potential whose precious life was taken away by two speeding cars on March 7 in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Saucedo reflected: "When we're between those lines that's the game that Jesse loved to play and that's the game we love to play. Both teams gave it their best. We're here for them as well even though we played against them. We all go through tough times and we help each other out."