Culver Still has a Chance In Baseball Race

Sports Reporter

After four Ocean League games the Culver City High baseball team certainly has their work cut out for them as the Centaurs expect to successfully defend their league title. The team is also fighting for a spot in the 2017 CIF Playoffs beginning in May. After posting a 10-0 record in 2016 the team is currently 2-2 following split decisions with both Lawndale High and El Segundo High. Six more league games will be played in the next few weeks, two each against Hawthorne, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. There are also two Saturday games remaining in the Chatsworth Tournament. "We still have an opportunity to win league. An 8-2 record doesn't assure us but El Segundo could lose to Beverly Hills or Santa Monica. Everyone is playing each other so the next three weeks are going to be very tough for all three teams," said head coach Rick Prieto. "If we're one of the top three teams in the Ocean League we will qualify for playoffs. There are at-large berths but a team has to have a .500 or better record. But to assure ourselves a spot one of the top three positions will get us in."The Centaurs lost 3-1 in their most recent game on Saturday, April 16, at Sierra Canyon High in Chatsworth. Once again the pitching and defense came through but Culver failed to push enough runs across the plate. A late rally in the seventh inning came up just shortas two very nice defensive stops by the Trailblazers held the Centaurs to their only run. Senior pitcher Ryan Weiner started the game for Culver with his brother Justin at catcher. A first inning home run by Sierra gave them a quick 1-0 lead. They scored two more runs in the bottom of

the third before the Centaur pitching and defense held them scoreless for the rest of the game. Coach Prieto: "What's exciting about that game is that I believe Sierra's ranked sixth or seventh in our CIF division and El Segundo's ranked second or third. Basically we've played two teams that are ranked in the top 10 and we went toe to toe with them. "We played good defense and Ryan was throwing well. He wasn't quite on with his second pitch but he was throwing his fastball pretty good. I like Ryan's approach on the mound. I really believe he's going to get us a three or six out situation in a game's that needed.""He threw very well when we played Arlington in the Anaheim Tournament. I believe we ended up pulling him when he had a no-hitter going due to his pitch count being up there still early in thegame. We have to be careful as we don't want to hurt him or any of our pitchers."Jason Zeidman relieved Weiner in the fourth inning and threw two innings of shutout ball. He struck out three batters including two in the fifth inning when Sierra threatened with runners on first and third and one out. Andrew Calo came on in relief in the sixth inning with a three up and three out effort. "Then we had Jason Zeidman come in to pitch two innings. What we're trying to do especially on our third game of the week is to get our pitchers who haven't had a chance to throw an opportunity to sharpen their skills so if called upon they're ready," said Prieto. "Jason spots his balls and when he's on his curve ball is pretty darn good. He keeps the batters off-balance. When Andrew Calo came in the sixth we were hoping to get him two innings but unfortunately we didn't get the lead for that to happen. It's funny because he got the bloop single to drive in our run in the seventh."Justin Weiner doubled to start the Centaur rally in the top of the seventh. Zeidman hit a single to move Weiner over to third base. A strikeout and a sacrifice bunt brought Calo up to the plate. His two-strike single drove in Weiner with Zeidman advancing to third.

Unfortunately for Culver, Ryan Weiner hit a shot that was flagged down by the Sierra right fielder to end the game. Prieto: "Ryan hits that ball a little further, one more step, their outfielder misses it and we have a tie ballgame. I told my players after the game that the seventh inning has to be our first, our second, our third inning and so on to give us an opportunity to build a comfortable lead."Earlier in the week at home on Tuesday Culver shut out El Segundo 3-0 behind the pitching gem of starter Max Sterner. Sterner threw seven complete innings, allowed only two hits, one walk and struck out six Eagle batters. Combined with a solid defense, Culver retired the side in order in four of El Segundo's seven at-bats. Ryan Weiner ended the game in the seventh inning with a leaping line drive grab at shortstop and a throw to second base with two Eagle runners on and one out. Sterner retired the first 10 batters of the game and pitched to a total of three batters over the minimum for the game. Capa scored in the third inning on a sacrifice RBI bunt by Zeidman to give Culver a 1-0 lead. They scored two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth on a single by Sterner, a walk by Eli Saucedo and a two RBI double by Justin Weiner. However, Thursday's game at El Segundo was a different story. "The El Segundo loss was a combination of a couple of things. Going back to that second inning I felt that if we had made the plays that we would have been out of that inning still up 1-0 going into the third. It didn't happen and sometimes the floodgates open," said Prieto. The Centaurs took a 1-0 lead in the second inning before the floodgates opened up for the Eagles with seven runs in the bottom of the inning. Following a lead-off walk, two seemingly routine outs turned into errors started the onslaught. Culver City never recovered as El Segundo scored five more runs in the third and four runs in the fourth. Three Eagle runs in the sixth

made the final score 19-1 and the worst Centaur defeat in recent memory. The team now prepares itself for homestretch. Prieto: "I'm still excited about the upcoming league games. Our players are working extremely hard in practice. My coaching staff is working diligently to put together a daily practice plan so we can have our players prepared for the next six league games.""We had a good practice on Monday and Tuesday we had a simulated game situation. We brought in our pitchers that will bepitching next week. We had our J.V. players come and help out on the defensive end. So all of our starting hitters got to face our pitchers in a game situation. "The players still have that attitude among themselves that they're the defending league champions. It's also shared with the coaches."


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