Culver City Observer -

Culver Baseball Earns Playoff Berth


Fred Altieri

Pitching star Jay Sterner

By Fred Altieri

Sports Reporter

Pitching and defense wins baseball games. It also allowed the Culver City High baseball team to clinch a CIF playoff spot on a beautiful spring afternoon at Beverly Hills High on Tuesday. The Centaurs shutout the Normans 6-0 on a baseball diamond temporarily laid out on the campus' synthetic turf at Nickoll Field.

Once again the fine pitching of Jay Sterner and Culver's stellar defense propelled them to win their third league game in a row and four of five to secure a third place finish in the Ocean League.

Their league record is 6-3 with one home game remaining on Thursday against Beverly which is now 3-6.

But the moment of truth for the team came in the bottom of the 7th inning of last Thursday's home game trailing Hawthorne High 1-0. At bat with an 0-2 count Sterner swung mightily. The high-flying ball landed deep beyond the right field fence to tie the game as the home fans went wild.

That set the stage for Mason Mulvihill at bat with two outs, a 3-2 count and a runner on first. He promptly slashed a line drive down the left field line to drive in Daniel Aceves with the game-winning run on a bang-up play at home plate. The 2-1 come-from-behind victory kept their playoff hopes alive and the team went wild.

Culver catcher Jacob Weiner, who was the batter on deck, called the winning action: "It was a 3-2 count when Mason hit the line drive. The ball went through the left fielder's legs and rolled 50 feet behind him. Daniel beat the throw home but it was close. We had to be happy because we got a win. That was the key.

"Jay really bailed us out. That home run he hit was huge. Going into the bottom of the 7th inning we were thinking that Jay and Nolan (Martinez) needed to get us a run. I was a little worried after Jay missed the first two pitches. When I saw the contact on the next pitch I wasn't sure if it was going out but as soon as the outfielder turned... "That's gone," stated Weiner.

Starting pitcher Nolan Martinez was throwing on all cylinders from the mound according to Weiner: "The 1st inning Nolan was out there with a purpose. He was throwing harder than I've seen him throw before. He was great and commanded his pitches really well."

Despite Martinez' steady work Hawthorne again threatened by putting two runners on with no outs in the 6th inning. After the next batter struck out manager Rick Prieto came out to the mound to gather his pitcher, catcher and infield.

Weiner: "We know that Nolan has the potential to throw it past anyone. We told him to throw strikes and it worked out. The next guy popped out which was really nice. The third guy flew out. That was huge because we did not want to go down any more."

Culver's win at Beverly was played on the make-shift field due to ongoing renovations to the Norman's home field at La Cienega Park. The short distance to the tall right field fence made an ideal target while the lack of a dirt infield stirred memories of several pro ballparks from the 1970's and '80's.

The team effort was encouraging because their offense showed signs of awakening just in time for the playoffs beginning next week. But the defense really shined as exemplified in the 1st inning by a diving catch from Mulvihill in centerfield and a leaping over-the-head grab by Mike Netzel just before the short right field porch in the 7th inning.

"It was a big game today. We knew coming into the game we had to win if we wanted to make the playoffs. We executed, played hard and turned out the win. That was good," said team co-captain Netzel, who hit a two-run double to help put the game out of reach.

"Our hitting is starting to get there. We obviously started off the season slowly but we're starting to hit more. I started off in a little slump but I'm starting to hit out of it. I felt good hitting today."

Pitching a shutout in his final Ocean League game ever was a remarkable and fitting way for Sterner, a senior, to go out. And three of his league victories this season have been shutouts including one no-hitter. Beverly didn't get a hit until the 4th inning.

Fred Altieri

Nolan Martinez' powerful swing

"Jay's always great. He's going to execute and pitch well. We know whenever he's pitching he's either going to give us a shutout or allow a run. We have to score about three runs and come and play defense behind him to get the win," added Netzel.

Weiner concluded: "It's kind of rare but Coach Prieto allows me to call the pitches. I really appreciate that because I feel when I can do that with a pitcher there's more of a connection between us.

"I just try to keep the pitchers calm and let them do their thing. It's the best way to do it. Mechanically, the pitchers can fix themselves. I try to point stuff out if I see it but... it's a blessing having this pitching staff."


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