Culver Baseball Qualifies For CIF Playoffs
May 11, 2017
The mission: win at Beverly Hills or risk abruptly ending the season two days later in Culver City.
Accomplished: the Centaurs of Culver High stepped up to the plate for a 6-3 clincher over the Normans of Beverly High to secure a 2017 CIF Baseball Playoff berth.
The win brings Culver's Ocean League record to 6-3 with one home game remaining against Beverly Hills. They are currently tied for second place with Santa Monica and two games behind virtual league champs El Segundo (8-1) as league play ends this week.
"A combination of things could have happened prior to today's game. We were looking at a three-way tie for third scenario depending on how the next few games went. We resolved that issue by winning today," said Culver head coach Rick Prieto.
"Now we're tied for second place. And we can jump into that second spot if we win Thursday and El Segundo beats Santa Monica. There's a good chance that can happen and possibly for a home game in the playoffs."
The Centaurs qualified for the CIF Playoffs by finishing in the top three in league with the fourth-place Normans (3-5) practically eliminated from post-season play. Culver jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on Tuesday, May 9, at La Cienega Park.
Back-to-back two-out doubles by Max Sterner and Matt Rummelsburg followed by Ryan Weiner's first-pitch RBI single gave Culver the permanent lead. One inning later it was 3-0. Again with two outs, Bobby Capa walked and scored on Justin Weiner's full-count RBI double.
"They got a base-on-balls, a strikeout, a base hit, a sacrifice and then two hits. But we were able to keep them at bay with two runs. After that Max (Sterner) settled down. He ended up with 11 strikeouts," said Prieto about Beverly's urgent response in the bottom of the second inning.
Culver starter Sterner pitched a complete game, struck out nine of the last 14 Norman batters including the side in the sixth inning and only walked two. The defense backed him up with a 5-4-3 tailor-made double play in the fourth inning.
The Centaurs scored two insurance runs in the fifth inning. Andrew Olmeda singled, advanced on a sacrifice by Sterner and scored on a Rummelsburg RBI single. Eli Saucedo followed up with another RBI single and a 5-2 lead. And more in the seventh inning for good measure as Sterner scored on Saucedo's sacrifice fly.
"Since we got into league the key move was moving Andrew Olmeda to the second spot. He's been doing very well. Matthew Rummelsburg is on fire. He's our top hitter and has been pretty much all year long. He hits the ball hard. He hits it in the gap. He comes through when needed," said Prieto.
"Justin Weiner is our leadoff batter because he makes contact at the plate. That's the key. He's able to display power at times and his strikeouts are low percentage. I've tried pretty much everyone in the lineup as the leadoff batter. Because we weren't scoring runs I tried to get the guy who's been hitting the ball and maybe manufacture a run or two."
Beverly High added one final run in the final inning. "They led off with a base hit. Two passed balls allowed him to get to third. We had one out and then the 4-3 was a groundout to second base. Let's just get the out. We're still up three. Next thing you know... boom...strikeout. Game's over."
It was a 3-2 Culver City loss at Santa Monica last Thursday that put them in a must-win situation against Beverly. The Centaurs squandered several run scoring opportunities against a determined Viking squad that lost 7-2 at Culver City two days earlier. This time Santa Monica jumped to a 3-0 lead after two innings.
The Vikings scored on an RBI single in the first inning off Centaur starter Eli Saucedo. They added two more runs in the second inning on a double and two singles after Saucedo had retired the first two batters. Saucedo allowed no more runs to score while scattering nine hits with no walks.
Culver immediately rallied in the top of the third. Daniel Aceves reached first base on an error. Justin Weiner singled. Olmeda walked to load the bases with one out. "The game was strange how it ended up. We had some scoring opportunities," said Prieto.
"The key to that game was the third inning when we had the bases loaded with one out. Max Sterner came up and hit a high chopper to the first baseman to score our first run. Basically that was the second out. Rummelsburg came up and drove in the second run. But we stranded runners at first and third in that inning."
Culver threatened one last time in the sixth inning when the first three batters reached base. But a couple of pickoff moves by the Vikings held the Centaurs scoreless and preserved the victory for Santa Monica.
"On a hit and run we need to make sure the pitcher goes home before we take off. So we got caught in that short rundown. That was crucial because it was 3-2 at the time. We can't afford to make mental mistakes in a game like that. If we win that ballgame we're in pretty good shape," assessed Prieto.
"They hit the ball but our defense played well. I thought we gave them station-to-station instead of multiple bases. That's a tribute to the outfielders playing hard defense. The wind at Santa Monica seems to go from right to centerfield to the left field foul pole like a wind tunnel. It's tough to read at times.
"We want to continue to play good defense, to have good pitching and come up with timely hitting. We want to definitely finish strong on Thursday and prepare for the first round of the playoffs."