Culver's Sterner Pitches Second No-Hitter
May 7, 2015
By Fred Altieri
Right now the sound of a broken record is sweet music to Culver City High baseball. The artist is Jay Sterner, the senior lefty pitcher who recorded his second no-hitter of the 2015 season.
For this performance he and his Centaur teammates took their act on the road to tame Hawthorne High, 3-0, on Tuesday.
More importantly, the win allows Culver to control its own destiny concerning a CIF playoff spot with three games remaining in Ocean League action.
The Centaurs entered the game tied with Beverly Hills High for third place, both with 3-3 records. They will play the Normans in a two-game series next week to determine who earns the playoff berth.
All of this came on the heels of Culver's biggest game of the season, a very satisfying 6-2 home victory over archrival Santa Monica High on Tuesday, April 28. Once again, Sterner's pitching kept the Vikings off-balance while the Centaur offense came to life in what was a must-win situation for the team.
At Hawthorne, Sterner was one walk shy of pitching a perfect game as he struck out 11 Cougars, including all three batters in the first inning to start off the game. Appropriately, left fielder Max Sterner, Jay's younger brother, scored in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Nolan Martinez to give the Centaurs a 1-0 lead.
Hawthorne came close to getting a hit in the bottom of the second inning when its leadoff batter hit a hard grounder between first and second base. Culver right fielder Tomas Saucedo sprinted in to the meet the ball yards beyond the infield dirt and gunned a perfect throw to a stretching Martinez playing first base to just beat the runner for the out.
However, the Centaurs didn't feel secure with only a one-run lead going into the top of the seventh inning. They responded with one out as David Ko hit a deep liner to right-center field for a double on a two-strike count. Head coach Rick Prieto sent in catcher Price Campbell to pinch run for Ko. Campbell scored the insurance run on a double by pinch-hitter Joseph Perez that virtually sealed the game.
Campbell, one of the team captains along with Sterner and third baseman Mike Netzel, spoke about the clinching run: "There was a hit out to right-center field and it dropped so I just took it. It was a close play at home plate. The catcher never tagged me and I slid in under him.
"We should have hit better against Hawthorne. It was just their slow pitches and none of our batters were staying back. We were just fouling them off."
The Centaurs got added insurance when Jacob Weiner, pinch running for Eli Saucedo, scored on a double by Kelvin Murillo.
Campbell was also instrumental in the crucial Santa Monica victory as a pinch runner when the Centaurs opened the floodgates for five runs in the second inning after the Vikings had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
"Coach (Prieto) had just brought out a new squeeze play. He gave us a new sign. He had me go out on third base to pinch run. He gave the sign. We scored. That was our first run," said Campbell.
"We hadn't beaten Santa Monica forever. That was exciting to finally take them down. Our hitting came from spending 75% of practice on batting. We just really worked on hitting because that's our weakness. We've got pitching so we just need to take it out with the bats. And we did that game."
It was a team effort as nine Culver players unloaded for 12 hits in the game: Kelvin Murillo, Mason Mulvihill, Tomas Saucedo, Jay Sterner, Nolan Martinez, Jacob Weiner, David Ko, Eli Saucedo and Mike Netzel. Mulvihill had a triple and three RBI's while Tomas Saucedo and Martinez each doubled.
Meanwhile, Sterner struck out nine while only allowing one earned run and six hits. The 5-1 lead gave him plenty of breathing room and the potent Santa Monica offense rarely threatened for the rest of the game.
Campbell had praise for the team's ace: "Jay Sterner has always kept us there. He's always had our backs. We really don't have his back on a lot of games and that's really a bummer. I'm just glad we finally gave him support in the Santa Monica game."
Two days later on April 30 Culver lost the return match at Santa Monica 3-0. Martinez pitched well allowing only six hits while striking out five batters. But the Centaur bats fell dormant again as their hitting was reduced to three singles.
Sterner's first no-hitter of the season was a 6-0 victory at home on March 11 against Venice High. In that game he struck out six and walked two batters.
Campbell is confident about the team's drive to make the playoffs: "We didn't really think about it going into the Santa Monica game. It was more of an in-the-moment thing so we just focused on the game that day and performed as we would. We plan on mercying Hawthorne and then going for Beverly. We're hungry."