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Writing The Story of 2020’s Missing League, CIF Championships

With this week’s scheduled CIF Southern Section championships canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will officially be a blank line across the record books. Before we close the book on 2019-20, we wanted to take a look at a few of the league and CIF-SS/State championships we expected to be covering this May–just because the line in the books is blank doesn’t mean there isn’t a story to tell.

League Championships

Moore League baseball was set to deliver one of the most star-driven seasons in years with almost every team having a must-see player on the roster.

Leading the way was Lakewood’s Ricky Tiedemann. The talented senior pitcher is expected to be selected in the MLB Draft in June, even with the Draft being shortened to five rounds. However, he injured his non-throwing hand before the season and was expected to miss at least the first half of the season.

Tiedemann’s absence would’ve left the door open for Wilson senior Ryan Pettway, Millikan sophomore Ryan Geck and Long Beach Poly senior Tim Fife to push their teams into first place. Pettway was coming off a historic senior season on the football field where he emerged as a true leader, and looked to do the same on the mound. Geck verbally committed to the Long Beach State Dirtbags after hitting .422 last year as a freshman, and Fife went 6-1 last year while striking out 42 batters in 48.1 innings.

Cabrillo had senior pitcher Dylan Gambino who beat Long Beach Poly last year, and nearly upset Wilson in March before the season was cancelled.

If we had to make a prediction it would be Lakewood and Tiedemann on top at the end, but we’ll never know if his increased draft stock would’ve kept him sidelined for precautionary reasons.

Moore League softball was Wilson’s for the taking, and Lakewood is probably sighing secretly that this season was never completed after the Bruins routed the Lancers 9-3 in the March league opener. Wilson was led by the battery of junior pitcher Hailey Houston and freshman catcher Juliana “JJ” Babore in that game. Houston went the distance with 11 strikeouts, while Babore hit two home runs in her league debut.

With Millikan and Poly both working though rebuilding years, it’s fair to predict that Wilson could’ve won the league with only one loss while earning a decent seed for the Division 2 playoffs.

The Moore League swimming season was set up to be another epic battle between Wilson and Poly. The Jackrabbits were stacked with experience and young talent on the girls’ side with senior leaders Josie Liebzeit, Erin Babbitt and Alana Snyder leading the way. Coach Kalani Caldwell was also excited to see what freshman Nina Gonzalez would do in a variety of races. The Bruins held the edge on the boys’ side with returning league champions Hank Rivers, Brandon Samaniego, Mazon Abouelela and Gray Carson ready to rewrite the record books again.

With the amount of records broken at the league finals last year by the swimmers listed above, it’s fair to assume that would’ve happened again this season.

Moore League boys’ volleyball was going to be the most hotly contested in years as Millikan, Poly and Wilson were all ranked in Division 3 when the season was canceled. The Rams showed just how much they’ve improved by beating the Bruins 25-23, 21-25, 25-17, 20-25, 15-13 on March 11. Senior Kyle Paulson led the Rams with 25 kills on the night, scoring six points in the fifth and final set to get his team over the top.

Poly boys’ tennis was on the hunt for a fifth consecutive Moore League title this season with senior captain Arkin Verma emerging as the top singles player. Poly coach Ricardo Montecinos said that he expected this season to be very competitive, and that young “blue chip” talent at Wilson and Millikan were only going to make the league better.

Moore League boys’ golf was likely going to be a Wilson affair again with senior co-captains Spencer Johnson and Samin Bhagat leading the Bruins. Wilson was looking for a 42nd league title, and a 28th individual champion.

Moore League boys’ and girls’ lacrosse was going to crown its first champion after its inaugural league season. The sport has grown quickly in the CIF Southern Section, and the Poly boys’ and Wilson girls’ looked to be the title favorites.

CIF-SS & State Championships

As always, the biggest championship bang was expected to be made by the track stars of the city. Wilson senior Rachel Glenn was poised to move into the upper tiers of Long Beach history as she competed for as many as three individual state championships this year. 

The Bruins and Jackrabbits were both going to be in the mix for team and individual championships, with St. Anthony and star Asjah Atkinson expected to be in the mix in the 100 hurdles as well. Millikan sophomore Samara Monrroy was one of the best 9th graders in the state last year and could have improved on her first effort with some more hardware this week.

On the softball diamond, the closest thing Long Beach had to a guaranteed CIF-SS championship this year was St. Anthony in Division 3. The Saints, led by Oklahoma signee Tiare Jennings, were undefeated and were absolutely blowing opponents out. They were No. 1 in the Division 3 rankings with no competition in sight.

This was supposed to be the first year for lacrosse championships in the CIF-SS and the same teams that looked poised to make Moore League history might have done the same thing in the CIF-SS playoffs, with the Poly boys and Wilson girls both looking unstoppable before the season was shut down.

Finally on the hardcourt we were looking forward to seeing the Poly boys’ volleyball flex its muscles in a lower division this year, where their top players might have been too much for the Division 3 field to handle. Long Beach State signee Matt Iamaleava was one of the top players in the division, along with his little brother, freshman Nico Iamaleava. The Jackrabbits boasted four 6-5 hitters, an unheard-of array of talent for a Division 3 team, with a talented setter in Nathan Cheav orchestrating the offense.