Thrillers and Drama for Culver High Baseball

The battle for third place turned into the 2018 Ocean League baseball series of the year. All it took was splitting a pair of walk-off thrillers plus a do-or-die playoff win at Culver City High for the Centaurs to outlast a stubborn and much-improved Beverly Hills High squad. The 4-1 victory earned Culver an invitation to the CIF Southern Section Division 3 Playoffs.

The Centaurs fell behind, tied the game, took the lead and added an insurance run to outlast the visiting Normans 4-1 on Friday, May 11, after splitting the first two nail-biters at home and away days before. Culver scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the seventh inning to take the opener on Tuesday afternoon.

Two days later Beverly Hills' dramatic come-from-behind 10-9 nine-inning victory at La Cienega Park forced the Friday playoff game. The top three teams in the league advance to the playoffs. Both teams finished tied for third the regular league standings with 5-5 records. El Segundo High won the league championship with a 9-1 record followed by Santa Monica High at 8-2.

The Normans took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Cannon King walked, stole second and scored on a passed ball. Culver tied it immediately in the bottom of the inning. Joaquin Hines doubled, went to third on a passed ball and crossed home plate standing up with two outs on a wild pitch.

Supported by very solid defense junior right-hander and first-time starter Nathan Carmichael kept the Beverly hitters at bay with clutch pitching. Carmichael gave up only two singles in four innings pitched. He struck out two, walked three and retired the side twice.

The Centaurs scored two runs in the third inning to take the lead. Dylan Singh singled and stole second base. Two outs later Hines singled and stole second base followed by Tanner Duve walking to set the table for senior Andrew Olmeda with the bases loaded. Olmeda delivered with a sharp line single to left field driving home Singh and Hines for a 3-1 lead.

Following a fifth inning leadoff walk by Beverly Hills Culver head coach Rick Prieto brought southpaw pitcher Nick Lopez to relieve Carmichael. An infield error allowed the Normans to put runners on first and third with two outs. Centaur shortstop Mason Le turned in the defensive play of the game on the very next at bat.

Le dove to his left completely laid out horizontally on the infield turf to snare a sharp grounder almost certainly headed for an RBI hit up the middle. Le tossed the ball to Hines at second base to force the runner for the third out. The Centaurs added a run in the sixth inning as Duve singled and scored on Jake Glickman's RBI single. Lopez struck out two batters and the Culver defense retired the last six Norman batters to preserve the win.

Tuesday's opener set the tone with a classic pitching duel between Culver's Adrian Montenegro and Beverly's Cannon King. Both pitchers held the opposition scoreless through 6 1/2 innings. Montenegro and a reliable defense squelched Norman rallies in the first, second, sixth and seventh innings. Both teams squandered scoring chances with several crucial putouts at third base. Culver failed to capitalize offensively in the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning pinch-hitter Nathan Carmichael worked a full-count pitch for a walk. On a 1-1 pitch leadoff hitter Tanner Duve hit a fly to right-center field that was misplayed by the Norman centerfielder. Carmichael rounded the bases, scored standing up and was mobbed by his jubilant Centaur teammates for a very satisfying 1-0 win.

The tides were turned at Beverly Hills two days later. Culver City took a 3-0 lead in the top of the third on a single by Glickman, a double by Bobby Capa, Le reaching first base on an error and singles by Nick Lucero and Hines. Beverly quickly tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the inning on two hits and two Centaur errors.

The Normans took a 4-3 lead in the fourth but Culver tied it in the top of the fifth inning on a single by Hines and a triple by Olmeda. Beverly retook the lead with two runs in the bottom of the inning. The seesaw battle continued with a five-run outburst by Culver in the sixth inning. Glickman walked, Singh laid down a bunt single, Le singled, Lucero was hit by a pitch, Hines hit a 2-RBI single, Olmeda hit a sacrifice RBI fly and Duve knocked in two runs with a double. The Centaurs loaded the bases in the seventh inning, failed to score but brought a 9-6 lead going into the last inning.

Down by three runs in their last at-bat Beverly Hills was determined not to let the season die on their home field. The Normans opened the seventh with a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. Beverly's Quincy Smith delivered a one-out 2-RBI single. After a flyout to left King hit a two-out RBI-single to send the game into extra innings.

The Centaurs loaded the bases again in the eighth inning but again failed to score. In the bottom of the ninth inning Culver retired the first two Norman batters. Pitching control suddenly became an issue with three consecutive walks loading the bases for Beverly, the first two coming on full-count pitches. Norman designated hitter Wesley Wu delighted the Beverly home crowd with a game-winning RBI-single.

Culver City will travel to Palos Verdes High this Wednesday, May 16, for a CIF wild card Division 3 Play-in game. The Sea Kings finished 6-3 in the very tough Bay League and had a 17-10-1 overall record. Palos Verdes hosted and edged out the Centaurs 2-1 in the 2015 CIF Division 3 Playoffs the last time both teams met. The winner will play at top-seeded Maranatha High on Friday afternoon, May 18.


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