Culver Attempts To Reverse Close Baseball Losses

A cool but stiff early afternoon breeze blew across the baseball field at Culver City High on Monday, March 28. The home team Centaurs had just lost another bitter low-scoring affair, this time 2-1 to St. Francis High in a third round game of the Anaheim Lions Tournament.

Two days earlier a warm but windy early afternoon at Valencia High treated the Culver City nine in a similar fashion. The team suffered a 3-1 defeat to the highly ranked Vikings in the second round tournament game.

The Centaurs are now 1-3 in the noted Anaheim tournament with one game remaining. It began on a high note last Friday in a first round home game rout against Anaheim High, 12-0. Culver lost a close one again to Western High, 4-2, on Tuesday, March 29.

"We had an opportunity to tie the game but we didn't come through against St. Francis. We had opportunities. It was more about failing to execute," stated Culver's starting senior catcher Jacob Weiner.

"We left the tying run on third base in the sixth inning. Michael (Netzel) doubled and Nolan (Martinez) hit a triple. That was pretty much our entire offense for the game. We just couldn't get it done"

All cylinders were clicking in the win over Anaheim. Southpaw Max Sterner threw six complete shutout innings, allowing the Colonists only three hits. Hunter Hutchinson pitched a perfect seventh inning.

The Centaur bats were in full support with 16 total hits including the first home run of the season. Sterner scored two runs and had two hits. Netzel had two runs and four RBI's on two hits including a triple in the first inning and the home run in the fifth.

"It was a three-run home run and got us fired up. He hit the ball over the fence about 10 feet left of the football scoreboard and then it bounced on the running track. It was pretty to look at," said Weiner.

Eli Saucedo had two hits including a triple and a run. Ryan Weiner scored a run and his brother Justin had a hit. Martinez had two doubles and two runs. Daniel Aceves and Kelvin Murillo each had two singles and a run scored.

Weiner, who had a perfect day at the plate going 3 for 3 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored: "By the fifth inning we were already in the driver's seat but we didn't want to get complacent. Going into the game I was pretty confident and had a new batting approach that I've been working on."

The next day in Valencia was a big test against the Vikings, currently ranked 18th in the State and 88th in the nation. The Centaurs responded with Nolan Martinez on the mound. He pitched a stellar game as he held the powerhouse to one run on four hits while striking out four in five innings.

Valencia scored in the first inning on a double and a sacrifice fly. Martinez kept them off balance for the next four innings.

Weiner: "Nolan was hitting his spots, kept the ball on the corners and was very hard to hit. He was throwing 95 mph fastballs and his curveballs were in the 80's.

"His curveball was moving and he also was throwing a changeup.

These teams have very good hitters but it's still hard for them to hit Nolan with their good swings. He's quick, gets the ball up there and blows it right past them. I think that was one of his best outings if not his best.

"The frustrating part is that we outhit them and for the most part our fielding and hitting was better. We had the better pitcher. We feel like we could have won that game and also the other close losses we suffered.

"We had a team meeting to talk about these low-scoring losses. It comes down to attitude. We notice that we come out differently against better competition. But we really need to back up Nolan because he's been pitching really well and we haven't been getting him the wins."

Monday's loss to St. Francis was almost a carbon copy of the Valencia loss as the Golden Knights took an early two-run lead on the Centaurs. Hutchinson also threw perhaps his best game of the season to no avail.

He scattered five hits, struck out three in five innings. Again, the Culver bats failed to generate enough runs. Mason Mulvihill had the team's first hit in the fifth inning. Netzel doubled and scored on Martinez' triple in the bottom of the sixth inning. That was the extent of the offense.

Weiner: "Hunter was really impressive. His fate, kind of like Nolan's, was unfair. On another day he probably wouldn't have allowed two runs in his five innings of work. We could have also scored three or four and gotten him the win.

"We had an opportunity to tie the game in the sixth inning. Nolan was on third with one out. Ryan tried to put the squeeze on but fouled it off. Then I was up and also got the squeeze sign to bunt for a base hit but the pitch was outside. So neither one of us got the bunt down. We weren't productive."

The Centaurs with a 6-6 record have a single game against St. Monica and a slate of games scheduled in the Chatsworth tournament before Ocean League action begins in less than two weeks.

"We're not discouraged. We had our team meeting. The key conclusion is that we have to come together as a unit and start executing early in the game," concluded Weiner.

"For the most part we've taken care of the teams we should beat. We've played some really good teams and know we could have beaten them.

"We're still excited. As a team, we're closer for it. We obviously don't want to put up losses. We also know that it's a long season and one game is not going to define us."


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