Culver City High; in position to win league

BY VINCE ECHAVARIA

The Ocean League baseball title may be Culver City High School’s to lose, but Santa Monica High School Vikings coach Kevin Brockway said his team now knows it at least has a shot at overtaking the league crown.

The Vikings (13-9-1, 4-2) put themselves in a position to defend their league title from last season after a 5-1 league victory over the host Culver City High School Centaurs Thursday, April 27th.

Santa Monica not only gave Culver City (17-8, 5-1) its first league defeat of the season, but also pressured the Centaurs to finish off league play without another loss if they are going to take this year’s outright league crown.

“They control their own destiny,” Brockway said of the Centaurs. “If they win out, they clinch the league title.

“But it’s nice to get a victory against a great team and it gives us a chance to win the league.”

Santa Monica was the ruler of the league last season with an undefeated league record of 10-0, but this season the Vikings have struggled with injuries to some top players, Brockway said.

Culver City has risen to the top of the league standings from the early part of this season and won the first match-up against the Vikings 8-3 Tuesday, April 25th.

But in the second meeting last Thursday Santa Monica was ready to prove that the league title has yet to be decided, as the Vikings got on the scoreboard early with a run in the first inning.

Junior David Castellanos, who finished one-for-three with one RBI (run batted in), started off the first inning for Santa Monica with a single.

The third batter, senior Milan (continued from previous page) De Pillars, then sent Castellanos home for Santa Monica’s first run of the game.

The Viking defense, led by junior starting pitcher Joe McGrew, held Culver City scoreless for the first four innings.

McGrew, who finished with eight strikeouts in seven innings, won his sixth game of the season.

The Centaurs tied the score at 1-1 in the fifth inning when sophomore Kevin Ozaki ran home on an error by Santa Monica at first base.

The Viking defense prevented another potential run at third base when Culver City’s last batter grounded out.

But Santa Monica responded with authority in the top of the sixth inning by grabbing four runs to take a 5-1 lead with two at-bats left for Culver City.

Junior Garret Ramos kicked off the four-run inning for Santa Monica with a single up the middle.

Junior Diego Valdez, who finished one-for-three, then picked up a big hit with a double to center field.

Back-to-back RBIs by junior Bryan Eyler and senior Alex West gave the Vikings a 3-1 lead.

An error by Culver City with the bases loaded allowed Viking junior Devon Ramirez to get on first base with a single, sending Eyler home for a 4-1 lead.

After Santa Monica picked up its final run of the game on a bases-loaded walk by Culver City starting pitcher Jeremy Burrell, the Centaurs switched pitchers to senior Jack Maeshiro, who halted any further Santa Monica scoring.

“We got some key hits,” Brockway said of his team’s sixth-inning performance. “(Burrell) is the best pitcher in the league and it’s nice to get on top of him.”

The Vikings continued to apply defensive pressure in the bottom of the sixth inning, when McGrew struck out two of the first three batters for Culver City.

The Centaurs managed to put two runners on base in the sixth inning, but Valdez ended the inning by tagging out a Culver City runner at first base.

Santa Monica also stopped two Culver City runners from scoring in the seventh inning to hold on for victory.

Both teams finished with three errors in the game. Santa Monica had six hits in the victory to five hits for Culver City.

Santa Monica will try to secure its chances for earning the league title this season by closing out league play with victories.

The Vikings will next host Inglewood High School in a league game at 3:15 p.m. Thursday, May 4th.

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