In a first-place baseball game that absolutely lived up to its billing, Millikan came out a few plays ahead of Long Beach Poly in a 3-2 thriller.
With the win, the Rams improve to 4-0 in the Moore League and are now in sole possession of first place.
“That’s the best we’ve hit the ball in quite some time,” said Millikan coach Ron Keester, whose team put up seven hits at Blair Field. Rams starting pitcher Julian Aguiar gave his team a great effort, yielding two hits in five innings to a Poly team that had 17 hits two weeks ago against Lakewood.
The Millikan coaching staff showed some big guts in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Rams were holding the 3-2 lead but Poly had two on with one out after a single from Troy Criss and an intentional walk drawn by Chris Murphy. Millikan reliever Trevor Sutt struck out Mike Mauai to bring up Fresno State signee EJ Andrews, a fearsome bat that Millikan had avoided pitching to all game. Coming up to the plate Andrews had been hit by a pitch and walked twice. With two on already, Keester knew his team couldn’t afford to walk Andrews again.
Pitching coach Kevin Gail walked out to talk to Sutt and asked him how he wanted to approach Andrews, a player he’s known for most of his life.
“He said, ‘I trust whatever you want to do,’” said Gail, who decided to take an aggressive approach, dialing up a first-pitch fastball. “I figured he’d be sitting curveball and we went after it.”
On the second pitch, Andrews hit a chopper to short and the Rams ended the game.
“It’s just a feel that coach Gail has with the game and the team, I trust him,” said Keester of the approach at the end of the game. “And he was right.”
Aguiar was making his first Blair Field start but looked like a savvy veteran, as the junior muffled Poly, mixing up low-90s gas with an effective curveball.
“It felt great, it’s such a nice field,” said Aguiar. “I just wanted to go out and throw my best and help my team win.”
The Jackrabbits struck first as Aguiar took an inning to get his feet under him. Murphy drew a walk and then Aguiar plunked Mauai and Andrews to load the bases. Jeff Evans scored Murphy to make it 1-0 Poly, but the Jackrabbits couldn’t do any more damage and the Rams would answer back.
With Cole Baker and Cody Bey drawing walks from Poly starter Will Hallock, Nico Briones knocked a single through the left side to score Baker and tie the game. Millikan would score another pair of runs in the top of the fifth as Baker singled to start the inning and then Yogi hit a double that reached the left field wall. Baker ended up scoring on a wild pitch and then Bey singled in Yogi to make it 3-1.
In the bottom of the sixth with Aguiar off the mound, Poly struck again after Andrews drew a walk and Jesse Simon moved him to third. Andrews scored on a grounder by Edgar Rosales to make it 3-2, but Rosales was called out on a bang-bang play at first for the second out of the inning. Video replay showed that Rosales beat the ball to first—had he been called safe there would have been two on with one out. Instead, a ground ball from the next batter ended the inning.
Millikan will face Cabrillo at Blair Field on Friday while Poly slips into a tie for second place in league with Lakewood, a team the Jackrabbits defeated earlier this year. Poly will face Compton on Friday.