Centaurs Baseball Sweeps Lawndale

Character counts. It was a gut check for the young 2018 Centaur baseball team. Following Culver City High's two tough losses to open the Ocean League the previous week against defending champs El Segundo High, the team faced a continually improving Lawndale High squad that gave the Culver boys all they could handle.

The Centaurs passed with grit and determination to sweep the home-and-away series with the Cardinals by scoring the winning runs in their last at-bat in both games. Culver City scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to take the Tuesday home opener 4-3. Two days later they scored the only run in extra innings for a very satisfying 1-0 victory.

Centaur closing pitcher Andrew Olmeda was told by Head Coach Rick Prieto that he's going to start Thursday's game at Lawndale following Tuesday's come-from-behind win. Olmeda, one of only three seniors on the roster, came through with one of his best performances in his high school career. In seven-plus innings he allowed no runs, and only two hits, before being relieved in the eighth and final inning.

"Actually throughout the game I started feeling better," said Olmeda. "Early in the first and second innings I wasn't too consistent. But I found myself during the game. I felt like I could have gone one more inning."

"Last year we struggled with Lawndale. This year we had a close game, 4-3, so we needed to come out and compete and bring our A-game. So we fought and we beat them."

A hard afternoon wind was blowing in from right field at Lawndale High that kept most hit balls in the infield and turned hard-hit fly balls into routine outs throughout the game. Olmeda and his senior counterpart, Lawndale starter Julian Diaz, kept both offenses off-balance following first-inning scoring threats by each team.

The Centaurs put two runners on in the first inning on singles by Joaquin Hines and Mason Kim with two outs but failed to score. The Cardinals put runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the inning but Olmeda got a pop fly out and a ground out to quell the rally. Lawndale put their first two batters on base in the second inning but both were erased by pickoffs.

Catcher James Roque threw to first baseman Dylan Singh for the first pickoff. Singh threw to shortstop Mason Le to get the second pickoff attempt. Meanwhile, the Culver bats were held in check with 10 batters going down in order through the fifth inning until Olmeda slapped a single. Mason Kim delivered a one-out double in the sixth but was left stranded.

Lawndale put two runners on in the fourth inning but a runner was picked off on a throw from Singh to second baseman Hines for the third out. The Cardinals put a runner on third with one out in the sixth inning but were stopped on a ground out to second and a fly out to right field.

Olmeda: "I was just trying to put the ball in play, put it on the ground. Coach Prieto told me that's what I'm known for so that's what I did. It was our defense and determination that did not allow them to score."

Lawndale threatened to score the winning run in the bottom of the seventh with a runner on second base but Olmeda struck out the final batter, setting up the extra-inning excitement. Roque walked following a 3-1 count and was replaced by pinch-runner Barry Blocker. Consecutive fielder's choices advanced Blocker to third base with two outs, bringing up Mason Le at bat.

On the second pitch to Le, Blocker made a mad dash for home on a passed ball. The relay throw from the catcher was too late and the Centaurs celebrated Blocker's shutout-breaking run for a 1-0 lead. "We were confident coming to bat in the eighth inning because we had our top guys up. So we were confident of our guys and our chances," said Olmeda.

The tension peaked in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Cardinal leadoff batter walked. Coach Prieto replaced Olmeda with freshman pitcher Jake Glickman. A single by Lawndale put runners on first and second with no outs. An infield grounder moved them over to second and third with one out. Prieto intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases for Lawndale. Lawndale was one hit away from tying and likely winning the game.

Three pitches later shortstop Mason Le snared a line drive shot for the second out, tossed the ball to Hines who ran and stepped on second base before the Cardinal runner could get back. Bang, bang. Double play. Game over. The Centaurs leaped for joy while the Cardinals suffered defeat on the last play for the second game in a row.

Tuesday's game against Lawndale was a nail-biter with the tables reversed as Culver was trailing 3-2 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. Adrian Montenegro pitched the first five innings for Culver before being replaced by Benny Mosqueria for the final two innings. Lawndale took a 1-0 lead in the second inning but Culver tied it with a run in the bottom of the inning. Tanner Duve doubled and was sacrificed home by Roque.

Lawndale responded with two runs in the third inning on a single, double and a couple of errors for a 3-1 lead. The Centaurs got back a run in the fifth inning on a singles by Singh and Le and a Cardinal error. Mosqueria retired the Lawndale batters in order for the sixth and seventh innings setting up Culver's last inning heroics.

Roque led off getting hit by a pitch. A sacrifice by Blocker and a single by Singh brought Mason Le to the plate. On a one-and-two count Le dramatically doubled home the winning runs as the Centaurs celebrated their 4-3 last at-bat victory. For a young team that had just faced adversity the week before it was quick read and adjustment well-learned, earned and deserved.


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