A No Hitter On Culver's New Field (Really)
March 19, 2015
By Fred Altieri
In baseball a no-hitter is always special. But it's even more remarkable when it occurs in a team's season home opener.
Better yet, this actually happened immediately following the dedication ceremony for the newly reconstructed baseball field at Culver City High on Wednesday, March 11.
Senior pitcher Jay Sterner allowed no hits in seven innings as the Centaurs beat local rival Venice High, 6-0. Senior catcher David Ko was behind the plate and the Culver fielders made every play that came their way.
Not a single Gondolier runner reached second base and only four batters reached first base.
The pregame ceremony featured current interim principal Dr. Lisa Cooper and other administrators throwing out the first pitches to open the new field after months of construction that began last summer.
The entire field, completely level with natural green turf, an impressive infield and a restored pitching mound, is now one of the finest in the entire L.A. basin.
Sterner was his typical unassuming self in describing the feat: "I threw a no-hitter last year during league at Santa Monica High but we lost that game. I may have also had a no-hitter against Morningside or Inglewood a couple of years ago but I don't really count those.
"I was a little bit off in the pen but when I got out to the mound I felt that my stuff was working. With all the fans there it kind of helped out. The adrenaline kept me going."
Of note was the fact that no one had played on the new field or pitched off the mound until that day. Little time was wasted getting used to the conditions as Sterner struck out the first two batters he faced.
"It was the first time I've worked off this mound. I looked at it the day before. That was about it. The only difference in the mound is last year it was a bit more firm than this year. The clay wasn't staying as well and the hole formed a little quicker. Other than that the shape and everything is about the same."
Both teams failed to score through the first 3 1/2 innings. The Centaurs opened up the floodgates and scored all six runs in the bottom half of the fourth.
Michael Netzell drew a one-out walk and scored the first run on a deep Nolan Martinez triple. Sterner hit a two-strike single to drive in Martinez for a 2-0 lead.
An error, a Kelvin Murillo walk, a balk, a single by Tyler Hendershot, another walk for Daniel Aceves and a sacrifice fly by Ko brought in the remaining four runs. That pretty much closed the door on Venice as their offense never materialized.
Sterner gave props to his teammates: "I felt pretty confident going into the game so I was kind of expecting to do well. My defense played well behind me and made all the plays because I didn't strike that many out. The team defense really helped out."
The Gondeliers got on base only by getting hit by a pitch twice and walking twice. Two runners were erased at second base on throws by Ko to shortstop Murillo who tagged both runners out as they slid by the bag.
The game ended in fine fashion with a line out double play from third to first base and a line out to shortstop. The crowd gave a standing ovation as Sterner was congratulated by his teammates and coaches.
This is Sterner's fourth year on the varsity and his third year as the team's pitching ace.
He spoke about the change from year one: "My approach to the hitters has changed. As a freshman my fastball didn't really challenge many hitters so I really had to mix it up more.
"Between last year and this year I've been trying to perfect my control with each pitch but I haven't really added any new pitches. But now with teams like Venice I can really challenge them with the fastball and use my off-speed pitches sparingly.
"The Venice batters were having trouble with the fastball and getting around on it. So I worked mostly fastballs and once I got through the lineup a couple of times I mixed in mostly the curveball to get more of the outs.
"Through throwing all those off-speed pitches before, I got really good control of them so now I can use them more often when I'm behind in the count. I'm more confident I'd say."
Sterner with the help from his father is self-taught and doesn't have a personal pitching coach. He also related: "I don't really watch much baseball actually which is kind of surprising. Most of the stuff I learned is from my dad and the books we had. In those books we looked at a bunch of different pitchers and picked parts from each pitcher."
He ended: "This year we really didn't have much of a field to work on so my arm took a little longer to get in shape. But it finally caught up right as the season started which was good."