Culver Baseball Sweeps El Segundo, Leads The League

The 2016 Ocean League baseball championship won't be determined for a few more weeks. Regardless, the Culver City High Centaurs are playing as if the title belongs to them after sweeping El Segundo High 6-1 on the road Tuesday, April 19 and 6-0 in a home game two days later.

The Centaurs, who suffered two losses to the Eagles last season, are now 4-0 in league this season with six games remaining. Their overall record stands at 12-7 and are currently riding a six-game winning streak following a pressure-packed pre-league schedule.

Starting his second league game for Culver High, Eli Saucedo threw six innings to nail the win at El Segundo. Daniel Aceves relieved with a perfect seventh inning. More importantly, the team is starting to realize its potential by getting run support for its pitchers.

"Coach Prieto told me that I was going to start our opening Ocean League game last week. It was a little nerve-racking but I was mostly excited. There's been a lot of adrenaline flowing throughout the past two weeks and it's been lots of fun," said junior pitcher / first baseman Eli Saucedo.

"The first inning at El Segundo was a little tough for the team. But I knew that if I threw strikes my defense would back me up. Even though we had a little trouble we picked each other up. No matter the situation we try to play to the best of our ability."

The Culver bats swung to a 2-0 first inning lead. Max Sterner doubled. Mike Netzel advanced him to third on a ground ball. Sterner scored on Nolan Martinez' RBI single. Jacob Weiner walked. Saucedo helped his cause by singling Martinez home.

Things got interesting in the bottom of the first. The Eagles loaded the bases with no outs on an error, a single and a walk. Next, an infield error allowed El Segundo their only run of the game. Incredibly the bases were still loaded with no outs.

Saucedo struck out the next batter looking. Four pitches later a flyout to right field turned into a momentum changing bang-bang play at home plate. A catch and a relay from Martinez to Mason Le at third base to catcher Jacob Weiner carried the moment. Weiner made a swift sweeping tag to nail the runner from third for the out.

"I started about one game early in the season but I was mostly coming out of the bullpen, relief pitching. And I knew El Segundo had some pretty good hitters. So I just tried to hit my spots and good things happened," offered Saucedo.

The Centaurs sealed the game for good by scoring two runs in the fourth and two in the fifth inning. Joseph Perez got hit by a pitch with two outs in the fourth. Kelvin Murillo doubled him home. Mason Mulvihill singled Murillo home on a two-strike count for a 4-1 lead.

Netzel walked to lead off the fifth inning. Jacob Weiner walked. With two outs Aceves singled in Netzel. Perez walked loading the bases. Murillo walked for an RBI as Weiner scored to make it 6-1. The team's batting is now starting to complement the team's dominant pitching staff.

Saucedo: "Our hitting has been doing a lot better lately. It's always nice having run support. I'm more relaxed up there on the mound and not thinking too much.

"Offensively, my hitting was basically all to the opposite field. But Coach Prieto has been working with me to pull the ball and use more of my power. I've been turning on the ball and it feels a lot better now. I've had a couple of doubles and RBI singles since."

Senior Centaur starter Nolan Martinez won Thursday's home shutout against El Segundo. He pitched five innings, struck out seven batters, walked two and allowed only two hits. He and Saucedo currently lead the league, both with 2-0 winning records.

Culver took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Jacob Weiner singled. Justin Weiner singled (no relation to Jacob). A passed ball set up a sacrifice fly by Ryan Weiner (Justin's brother) to score Jacob Weiner. That scoring combination turned out to be the winning run.

The Centaurs scored two more runs in the third inning. Netzel got to first base on an error. Martinez was hit by a pitch. Justin Weiner slashed a two-out two-run double scoring Netzel and Martinez.

Ryan Weiner, Mulvihill and Sterner rounded out the scoring in the sixth inning. Sterner threw the last two innings for the save. He managed to get out of jams in both innings with runners on second and third and only one out. Aceves made a brilliant play at third base to preserve the shutout.

Saucedo: "Sweeping El Segundo was huge for us. It was a big momentum changer. Our team is confident. We know we can hit the ball. Our pitching and defense is outstanding. We're just excited to play.

"It's great because many of us have played together since we were eight years old. We were all on the Culver City All-Stars back in like 2010, 2011. It's been awesome growing up with and playing with these guys for about 10 years."

Eli Saucedo spoke about his father being instrumental in his development as a player. "My father has had a huge impact in my life playing baseball. Ever since I was young we'd go to the park all the time. He taught me everything he could and gave me the wisdom on my pitching and hitting.

"We've been throwing ever since I was young. I just remember him getting on his knees and I would try to hit the spots where his glove was. That's what I remember: "Just hit the glove. That's what he'd always tell me: "Just hit the glove"

"I still think about it and even now when I'm on the mound. "Hit the glove no matter where it is." We have a coach who calls the pitches. I trust him and just try to hit the glove. Hit the glove."

The Centaurs still have their work cut out for them despite the strong league start. They play two crucial games against archrival Santa Monica High this week that will likely determine the league title.

Saucedo concluded: "We're just focusing on these next two games against Santa Monica. They're our biggest games in the league. After that we want to sweep and go undefeated in the Ocean League, get ready for playoffs and have a great run."


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