After two years of pain, heartbreak, and a whole heap of one-run losses to the Moore League’s three other playoff teams, Long Beach Poly was ready for a different story. That much was obvious on Tuesday evening at Blair Field as the Jackrabbits came up clutch in a 6-4 victory over Millikan, which puts the Jackrabbits in sole possession of first place in the Moore League.
“This feels great,” said senior shortstop Chris Murphy, who once again had the go-ahead RBIs for the Jackrabbits. “It was a lot of one-run losses, really frustrating games. The seniors are definitely prepared for games like this.”
Poly jumped on top early, loading the bases after Millikan starter Julian Aguiar walked the leadoff man, then Daniel Mariscal and Murphy singled to load the bases. Poly would score on a bizarre play that was meant to be a squeeze–the bunt didn’t get down, but the ball got past the Millikan catcher and allowed the baserunner to score from third and pop the seal, making it 1-0. After that Poly starting pitcher Jesse Simon successfully got down a sac bunt to score Mariscal, and sophomore Edgar Rosales singled in Murphy to make it 3-0.
Millikan got a run back in the bottom of the inning on a CJ Yogi sacrifice fly to score Moises Guzman, but the Rams left the bases loaded.
Millikan took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning after RBI hits by freshman Caleb Brandon and Guzman, who scored two to make it 4-3 Rams. Millikan had a chance to break it open but left two in scoring position to end the inning.
Poly answered in the top of the sixth. The bases were loaded with just one out–Aguiar got a strikeout for the second out, which brought up Murphy.
“I love coming up in those pressure situations,” said Murphy, whose 2 RBI hit against Wilson was the difference in a 2-0 Jackrabbit win last week.
The senior delivered again with a 2 RBI single that put Poly up 5-3.
“We’re just seeing a Chris Murphy that’s real relaxed, that’s not overthinking or pressing at the plate right now,” said Poly coach Brent Lavoie.
Millikan didn’t go quietly, with Yogi leading off the bottom of the seventh with a single. Freshman Ryan Geck launched a deep fly ball to the left field warning track that was a few feet short of tying the game, and relief pitcher Isaac Richardson ended up getting the game-winning strikeout with the tying run on base.
“It’s been a lot of frustrating losses for these guys for a long time,” said Lavoie. “I’m proud of the guys for sticking in there. We’re off to a great start, but there are eight big games still to play. It’s a fun league to compete in, you can’t take anything for granted.”
For Millikan, it’s a frustrating loss for a team that rolled over league rival Lakewood by 10 runs last week. The Rams have great pitching and offense but came up short on Tuesday.
“They got a big hit in the sixth, they just made more plays than we did,” said Rams coach Ron Keester. “I thought Julian pitched well but we didn’t play well defensively behind him. I think we’re still not seeing crisp baseball yet.”
Poly (8-3-1, 4-0) is the last undefeated league team and will face Cabrillo at Blair on Thursday evening. Millikan (8-4, 3-1) will host Compton on Thursday.
Poly (4-0) is in first place with Millikan and Lakewood (one loss each) tied for second and Wilson (two losses) in fourth.