Culver Loses 1-0 To Powerhouse Mira Costa

"We knew we gave it 100%. We hustled, played good defense, had good pitching but we just didn't manufacture any runs," said four-year Culver City High varsity baseball starter Mike Netzel after his team suffered a 1-0 biting loss at home to rival Mira Costa High on Friday, March 18.

"We know Mira Costa has a very good team. We were very excited to face them. We just didn't come out on top. We had our opportunities. We made some base running mistakes, had runners in scoring position but just couldn't drive them in."

Though the game was a scoreless tie the Centaurs, batting last, seemed to be in control with senior right-hander Nolan Martinez pitching a near-flawless six innings. He faced only 20 batters with just five reaching base.

Netzel added: "There are not a lot of teams that are going to score runs off of Nolan. We know we usually only have to get one or two runs to win the game. Unfortunately we couldn't get it done. It was a tough loss."

Southpaw Eli Saucedo relieved Martinez in the seventh inning and got bit by the subtle and sudden plays that often win 1-0 ballgames. With one out, Mira Costa's cleanup hitter walked on a full count and promptly stole second base.

Following an infield single that eventually put Mustang runners on second and third, Mira Costa senior Ty Conrad laced a perfect squeeze bunt down the third base line to drive in the game's only run. The loud chatter from the capacity crowd dissipated.

The Culver bats remained silent in the bottom of the seventh inning. A high pop-up to first, a fly out to centerfield and a ground out to the pitcher bluntly ended the game. The team's only hit was a single by Kelvin Murillo in the fifth inning.

"We hit some balls hard. Eli hit a ball in the gap but the guy dove and made a great play. Jake hit a shot to right. Nolan hit a shot to right but the outfielder was playing deep. It was just one of those games," stated Netzel.

"We felt we could have done a little more with their pitcher and at least scored a few runs. He did move the pitches around a little bit and pitched a great game. We'll bounce back."

Three days earlier the Centaur bats had a field day against visiting North High of Torrance. Culver stormed to a 14-1 victory as junior lefty Max Sterner threw five effective innings for the win. Netzel and Hunter Hutchinson pitched a scoreless inning each to wrap it up.

The Centaur offense wrapped out 14 hits. Mason Mulvihill, Netzel, Martinez and Kelvin Murillo, all seniors, had two hits each. Sterner, Eli Saucedo, Ryan Weiner, Jake Sterner, Joseph Perez and Tomas Saucedo added one hit each to the hit parade.

After a run in the second and three in the fourth, Culver erupted for 10 runs in the fifth inning. Six hits, three walks, a fielder's choice, three errors and a hit batter all contributed to the flood of runs.

Netzel: "We're buying into coach's approach to hitting: staying back, getting some movement in, not just standing there like a statue, staying short to the ball with two hands, not trying to do too much. We're slowly starting to get there. That's a big reason we're starting to hit well this year.

"I'm off to a great start at the plate. Hopefully I can keep that up. I'm seeing the ball well and it's been great producing for my team. The guys hitting in front of me are getting on base, stealing bases and getting in scoring position. That's all I have to do is hit the ball to the outfield and they're in."

Culver City baseball under head coach Rick Prieto is fundamentally about pitching and defense. This season the team has yielded only two runs in 35 innings for the five home games played to date primarily due to a stifling defense complimenting a stingy pitching staff.

"This season I've played left and right field. I also played third base against North. I played third during my sophomore year so it was nice being back there. But I'll play any position to help my team," said Netzel as he gave a rundown of the team's defense.

"Our outfield is really good this year. It's fun playing out there with Mason, Nolan, Max and Justin. At shortstop: Kelvin, a four-year varsity starter, a great glove and fielder.

"Ryan has had an immediate impact at second and is doing really well, too. With any ball hit up the middle we have a chance to turn two. Daniel at third is also a really good fielder. He can turn two also with any ball hit over there.

"Eli, Max and Nolan all play first base and are really solid fielders. A lot of us can also play first base, second, short or third if necessary. Our infield is excellent."

Netzel on his catcher: "When you're pitching with a catcher like Jake (Weiner), you still check on the runner but you know that Jake will throw him out if he has a chance. He has a strong arm. It allows you to focus on the batter instead of worrying about the runners on base."

The Centaurs are 5-3 in the early season with formidable opponents on tap before the Ocean League season begins in April. They're playing in the renowned Anaheim Lions and Chatsworth tournaments that include a few home games.

Netzel: "We're excited to be playing against Anaheim, Valencia, St. Francis, Chatsworth, Sierra and Canyon, some top teams like that to see where we're at and making progress.

"We're making good progress this season. The most important thing is to get ready for league play. Our goal is win league and go into the playoffs with a good run. Playing these teams will help us get prepared. It'll be fun and a good test."


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