Culver City Observer -

Culver Wins Playoff Game In 11 Innings

 

Fred Altieri

Centaurs celebrate victory over Oxnard

It was encore performance for the team, the seniors and the school. With a burst of unbridled energy the entire Culver City High baseball team raced from the dugout and engulfed teammate Jason Zeidman in a mass celebration just beyond first base and into right field.

The Centaurs had just defeated visiting Oxnard High 3-2 in the 11th inning in the 2017 CIF Playoff play-in game on Tuesday, May 16. For the solid fan base it was nervous time from the first to the very last pitch. For the players it was the most satisfying victory of their high school career.

The score was tied 2-2 with the bases loaded, two outs and a three and two count on senior centerfielder Zeidman in the bottom of the 11th. On the mound was Yellowjacket relief pitcher Raymond Chacon who had denied the Centaurs scoring opportunities from the fifth inning on.

After fouling off one full-count pitch Zeidman hit an infield chopper, raced to first base and crossed the bag as the Oxnard first baseman dropped the ball and the game. Ryan Weiner scored the winning run and rejoiced with his teammates as the stunned Yellowjackets watched in agony.

"Max Sterner and Andrew Calo had great games. They were pitching their hearts out there so I had to back them up and do my best at the plate. Our whole team played one of the best games of our lives," said Zeidman after the instant-classic win.

"Our guys were trying their hardest. We were all focused. Coach Chip Netzel always gets us thinking: go for nine. But today we went for 11 and that was even better. We poured our hearts out here and won. That's all that matters."

Culver will travel up the coast to Righetti High to take on the Warriors this Thursday, May 18 in Santa Maria in Round 1 of the CIF Division 3 Southern Section Baseball Championships. The Centaurs won their opening CIF Playoff game for the second consecutive year after having defeated San Luis Obispo 2-1 in a home game last year.

The key to the Centaurs earning a playoff home game was beating Beverly Hills 1-0 in their last game of the regular season. They finished the Ocean League with a 7-3 record in second place behind El Segundo (9-1). The nail-biting win over the Normans was a precursor to the win over the Yellowjackets.

"We know we looked forward to our last game after our four years of high school here and to end on a win is a good feeling," said senior Culver catcher Justin Ryan. "Eli (Saucedo) hit his spots well and had good command of his pitches. He's one of my best friends and we've played together most of our lives.

"I think Beverly woke up and came out to play just like we did. It was just a closer game," responded his twin brother and shortstop Ryan. "We couldn't find our groove earlier but in league we found it. We bounced back and felt like we were powerful. It feels good to move into the playoffs."

Saucedo's struck out 13 batters in his complete four-hit gem over Beverly. The game was especially meaningful for the team's 10 seniors as it was their last regular season home game ever as Centaurs. Both sides were held scoreless until Culver scored the game's only run in the fifth inning.

Bobby Capa walked and Andrew Olmeda singled to set the stage for Sterner to drive in the winning run. Saucedo retired the Beverly side in order for the last two innings including a strikeout to end the game. The defense once again carried the day for the Centaurs.

Ryan Weiner: "Our defense actually stepped up throughout the season so we got stronger and stronger. It's the same infield as last year except with Donovan (Haase) playing second. He really stepped up and is doing his job."

Justin Weiner added: "We're on the same page. We have really good chemistry. We practice hard and we're a unit. My pitchers are good. They hit their spots. They listen to the pitches I give them. I've known them my whole life so it's been good working with them."

Against Oxnard, Culver City scored first in the second inning when Matt Rummelsburg doubled and was driven in by Ryan Weiner's single. Oxnard tied the game at 1-1 in the next inning off of starter Max Sterner. Oxnard scored on a dropped-ball-missed-swing-in-the-dirt strikeout with two outs when Culver failed to tag the runner or home plate.

"I felt like I was cruising. I was confident I was going to hold them. That was a really fun game. The fact that it went 11 innings makes it more fun," said Sterner about his start.

Oxnard took a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning opening with a single and a double. Sterner struck out two of the next three batters to stem the tide. He struck out eight and walked two in seven innings. Culver urgently responded in the bottom of the fifth.

Daniel Aceves advanced to second base on a Capa sacrifice bunt. Zeidman stepped up and ripped an RBI double driving in Aceves to tie the game at 2-2. The pitching got even stingier as both teams failed to score for the next five innings. Culver missed a golden chance to win in the seventh inning.

With runners on second and third with two outs Andrew Olmeda hit a sharp liner that was snagged by the right fielder to prevent the Centaurs from winning in regulation. The groans from the partisan crowd added to their anxiety.

Andrew Calo relieved Sterner in the eighth inning and pitched three innings of pressure-packed gutsy baseball. Oxnard put runners on in two of the innings. It seemed inevitable they would score. But each time Calo threw the pitches that allowed his defense to execute.

"I just felt like I had to pick up for Max, finish the game, play for my brothers and do everything I can for the win. I was just trying to throw strikes because I knew the defense would pick me up and have my back. I trusted them," said Calo.

"I just wanted to do my part. If everyone's accountable then we'll win. It was a great team victory. It was the best win I ever had in my life."

Oxnard had excellent scoring opportunities in the 9th and 11th innings. The lead runner was gunned down at home in the ninth on an attempted double steal. Catcher Justin Weiner threw toward second as shortstop Ryan Weiner cut the ball off and threw back home to Justin to nail the runner.

Oxnard tried to score from second on a single to right in the 11th inning with two outs. But relay throws from Capa to Saucedo to Justin Weiner were just in time as he blocked the plate and made the tag in a clouded dusty blur at home plate. The game ended a half inning later with the Centaur heroics.

The Weiner brothers summed it up. Ryan: "We know what each other are thinking just because we've been together for so long. We know what each other can do."

Fred Altieri

Jason Zeidman bunts for a single against the Yellowjackets

Justin: "I know what Ryan does, too. I know his tendencies and just call it. It's fun playing at the highest level in high school. And we connect with each other so we play well. We've always had a good connection with our teammates."

Ryan: "I see ourselves going pretty far." Justin: "Hopefully we can..."

"... go further than last year. To the championship," finished Ryan.

Justin: It's been a good four years. We enjoyed it especially with our teammates. We go to lunch almost every day and after school. We like to hang out a lot. We're best friends on and off the field. It's been fun."

Ryan: "For the seniors Coach Prieto says that we all need to step up. And we've been stepping up. It's a senior job to help the team win and lead us to victories."

 

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