Culver City players celebrating during an earlier playoff contest. Photo courtesy of YouTube.com
WATCHING CULVER CITY’S AND CHAMINADE’S SOFTBALL TEAMS IN AN EPIC PLAYOFF BATTLE
My hand was forced.
After watching and writing about Culver City High School’s football and girls’ volleyball teams on this blog this year, I wasn’t expecting to do anything else on any Centaur team for the time being.
That is, until I heard that Culver’s softball team, after winning three playoff games on the road, were hosting the CIF Southern Section Division 5 Semi Finals against the San Fernando Valley’s Chaminade College Prepatory’s Eagles, with a spot in the CIF Finals on the line.
I knew I had to go and cover that game, and in essence complete the Culver City Centaur trifecta that this blog ended up doing.
Which was a bit surprising, since I had already wrote an article on those royal blue-clad young ladies and their rivalry game with my alma mater Santa Monica High School last season.
So there I was yesterday, arriving at Culver High’s softball facility on a cool, overcast, and breezy afternoon as the players were being introduced and a nice version of the national anthem was being played over the loudspeakers.
Just as I expected, the crowd was huge, probably the largest crowd to ever see a Culver City softball game at that field as there were folks standing and sitting all the way down the left field line.
Among that crowd was a young lady who I got to talking to, Mariko Rooks, who was on the Culver team the previous season and had just finished her freshman year at Yale, rooting her former teammates on. I was quite impressed with her and the loyalty and passion she had for her former school and team in a “Once a Centaur, Always a Centaur” way.
An unofficial team photo of the 2018 Chaminade Eagles. Photo courtesy of twitter.com.
Chaminade was well represented too, punctuated by a big navy blue flag with an orange “C” – which was really a Chicago Bears flag, but as those Eagles shared the same colors, it served its purpose – hanging from the stands behind home plate.
The first four innings saw each team score a run, Chaminade drawing first blood in the first inning while Culver’s Daisy Estavil tied it with one swing in the bottom of the second.
It was the last three innings that made this semifinal clash an instant classic, however…
The Centaurs, thanks to some mistakes, gambles that didn’t work, and some small ball, scored three runs in the fifth without the benefit of a hit to take a 4-1 lead, but being an old baseball/softball guy, I knew that the game was so not over, writing in my notes,
“I WILL NOT be surprised if they (Chaminade) rally.”
And sure enough, those Eagles proved me right, Gabriella Hensley blasting a two-run home run off of Emily Piera in the sixth to bring Chaminade within one and driving her teammates and their fans nuts with glee.
Which multiplied tenfold in the top of the seventh in what turned out to be the stuff that Hollywood movies and epic historical sports moments were made of.
Here’s what happened…
Runners on second and third for Chaminade.
Two outs – Culver City one out away from the Division 5 Finals.
Then, much like Bobby Thomson for the then-New York Giants in 1951, Kirk Gibson for the Dodgers in 1988, and Robert Redford playing Roy Hobbs in the 1984 movie “The Natural”, Sarah Dady, after blasting a three run walk-off homer a week or so ago in the first round, duplicated that feat (only without the walk-off since they were the visitors), giving her Eagles a 6-4 advantage with everyone in navy blue and orange acting like she had hit that homer off of Clayton Kershaw.
Which of course was understandable.
After giving it a couple of seconds of thought, my baseball/softball instincts kicked in as I realized that those Eagles adjusted to Piera’s off-speed pitches, which was confirmed when I asked Chaminade coach Gina Hairapetian and Dady about it afterwards.
But hold up…
In the grand tradition of those young lady Centaurs not quitting and “It’s Not Over Yet!”, Lailah Bell hit a solo shot of her own in the bottom of the seventh before Eagle pitcher Tessa Magnanimo’s 13th strikeout set off a celebration that looked like they beat the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series in Yankee Stadium.
Which (again) was understandable.
As I briefly chatted with the fans, players and coaches on both teams after the game, I quickly realized how much of an epic clash between two passionate teams it was, as I wrote in my notes:
“This has been a classic. One of those ‘shame that one team has to lose’ games.”
I obviously felt bad for the Culver players, losing the way they did, but as they are only losing three seniors the future is obviously as bright as an exploding super nova for them.
Putting it another way, I would be extremely shocked if those Centaur softballers weren’t right back in the semis – at minimum – next year.
I can’t end this without thanking Culver City High School and its teams – namely the football, girls volleyball and softball teams along with the marching band (can’t forget them!) – for helping this site’s growth as they provided good material for this blog in their events that I covered this school year.
So from a sort-of old alum of a rival high school (Santa Monica class of 1985), thanks Centaur Nation!
Your teams and band have really helped this blog along, and it’s very much appreciated!