First Time Since 2012 Culver Baseball Sweeps Santa Monica
May 5, 2016
For the First Time Since 2012 Culver Baseball Sweeps Santa Monica
By Fred Altieri
It's full steam ahead as Culver City High baseball is rolling through the 2016 Ocean League schedule. The Centaurs completed their first two-game sweep of Santa Monica High since the 2012 baseball season, 9-4 and 3-0 last week.
2012 was also the last time that Culver City won the Ocean League title with a 10-0 record. The team is now 6-0 in league with four games remaining: two against Hawthorne High this week and two against Beverly Hills High next week.
Pitching and defense prevailed once again in both wins over the Vikings but it was the Culver bats that set the tone early in their win at Santa Monica on Tuesday, April 26. They unloaded for six runs in the second inning and never looked back.
"It was big sweeping Santa Monica. I haven't experienced an Ocean League championship. Sweeping SaMo and El Segundo definitely puts us on the right track. But we still have to play hard and win these next four games to get there," said senior Centaur shortstop Kelvin Murillo.
"We had really good pitching this series. Eli Saucedo and Nolan (Martinez) really came through and we put a lot of runs against SaMo, which was key."
With the score 0-0, Martinez hit a double to lead off the top of the second at Santa Monica. Jacob Weiner singled him home. Ryan Weiner singled Weiner home. Saucedo singled. Daniel Aceves walked.
Murillo singled home Ryan Weiner to make it 3-0. Max Sterner singled in Saucedo. A double play brought home Aceves. Mike Netzel singled in Murillo. The Centaurs led 6-0. The Viking players and fans were visibly stunned.
Murillo: "We are all pretty excited. It was hit after hit after hit. It was a big rally. We understood that we had to get to their pitcher pretty early.
"Putting up those runs it was also key to giving Eli that cushion, where he could be comfortable up there. He's been locating his fastball, throwing his curveball for strikes. He's been a very big part of our success."
Saucedo won his third straight league game and has only given up one run in each of his outings. He constantly had the Viking batters off-balance and only gave up five singles and one walk.
Murillo and Netzel are both seniors and have started for the Centaur varsity team for all four years. It's no coincidence that both lead the team in batting average this year.
"Michael and I have been playing Santa Monica for four years and we had only beaten them once before," said Murillo.
"Us buying into what Coach Prieto has been teaching us and taking reps in batting practice has definitely helped our batting.
When I'm up to bat I don't think too much. I just get up there and try to get the job done no matter what it is."
Culver's defense was also clicking against Santa Monica. They completed two double plays, chased down eight fly balls and pulled off a couple of stellar plays including a leaping line drive stab by Murillo in the seventh inning.
"The catch was reactionary. Earlier in the game there was a ball hit just like that and I missed it. But the second time I just had to time the ball well and jump at the right time.
"I feel like my defense has improved over the years. We've been drilling double plays in practice almost every single day. It's a lot of reps during practice and having confidence out there. Without confidence you can't really do anything. It's definitely been paying off."
Things were a bit different two days later on Culver's field as the game was a scoreless tie going into the bottom of the fifth inning. The Centaurs squandered scoring opportunities in the first, third and fourth innings when ten batters reached base. Meanwhile, Nolan Martinez completely handcuffed Santa Monica from the mound.
Martinez retired the first 13 Viking batters. Then he let up his only hit of the game, a single. Only two other batters reached first base, both on walks. Two runners were eliminated on double plays. Martinez struck out six and matched Saucedo with his third league win of the season.
Murillo: "No matter who's pitching we always feel like we have a chance. When I see Eli or Nolan pitching it makes our jobs easier. I've have to make every single play for them so I want to work even harder. For the infield as a whole we definitely enjoy playing for them."
Culver City scored all three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Netzel tripled. Martinez walked. Jacob Weiner was hit by a pitch to load the bases. With two outs Ryan Weiner saved the day with a two-run single. Daniel Aceves followed with an RBI single. The game was sealed.
Not to be lost in the equation is the fact that many of the Centaurs have played baseball together since Little League. It's an intangible that they bring with them onto the field according to Murillo.
"This whole team has been pretty much playing together since we were 10 or 11 years old. We, as a group, are close-knit with one another. So no matter who's playing what position we always feel like we're gelling with each other.
"We can definitely sense the chemistry on the field. When someone's not doing well we all pick each other up. That's a really good aspect of this team regardless of what happens."
An aspect the team hasn't overlooked is the home-field advantage the Centaurs will enjoy in a first round CIF playoff game if they win the Ocean League title.
"As a team we do a great job of not underestimating our opponents. We're content but we're not satisfied. We know that we're undefeated so far but we're not satisfied with it," chimed Murillo.
"We have to go into these next four games not underestimating our opponents and get our first main goal down which is winning Ocean League. And after that, going into the playoffs with great momentum."