The Millikan Rams knew they needed some help on Thursday in order to pull off an unlikely share of the Moore League title. But that wouldn’t matter unless they took care of business on the road against Lakewood. The final day of an exciting Moore League baseball season lived up to the hype, with the Rams earning a 3-1 victory over the Lancers thanks to a pair of runs in the top of the seventh inning.
Millikan ultimately settled for second place in the final league standings, where they sit tied alongside Lakewood, a game back of repeat champions Long Beach Poly. But in a season that was so thrilling and unpredictable, all three of those teams are battle-tested with plenty of close wins and losses heading into postseason play next week. Millikan has closed the season strong, winning its last four games after their heartbreaking home loss against Poly two weeks ago.
“You win a couple games and you just feel good. The world is right again,” said an excited Millikan head coach Ron Keester after the game. “We talked about the rivalry between us and Lakewood yesterday at practice and reiterated how this is a special rivalry, with the hatred and the love between us. I have more respect for (Lakewood head coach) Spud O’Neil than I do for almost any other person on earth, because when I first got this job I leaned on him and he would help me out with things. So to come here and do that to him, it means the most, because it means so much more to beat him, and that team, and that program, and that school.”
Millikan went with senior Daniel Murillo to start the game on the mound, rather than junior ace Myles Patton. Murillo worked the first three innings on the bump, and his teammates got him some run support in the second inning. With two on and two outs, senior catcher Troy Harding smacked an RBI single back up the middle to score Sam DeCarlo from second and give the Rams a 1-0 lead.
“We saw that they were throwing first-pitch fastballs a lot,” said Harding. “My approach was to jump on the fastball as much as possible, so when I saw it, I hit it, and it worked out.”
Lakewood would respond in the third inning, however, starting with a leadoff single from Wyatt Coats. After a sacrifice bunt, a throwing error and a wild pitch, there were two men in scoring position for Blake Jones with one out. Jones sent a grounder up the middle and into center field for an RBI to score Coats, but Millikan’s Anthony Godfrey threw out Lakewood’s Eric Yuriar trying to score from second.
That kept the game tied, 1-1, until the final inning. Millikan started off their rally with singles from Harding and Bilal Alii to put two men on with one out. The next batter was Dean Ormonde, who sent a slow dribbler right in front of home plate. The throw to first base was high, allowing pinch runner Cameron Snyder to score from second base and for Ali to advance to third. Ali would later score on an errant pickoff throw, giving Millikan a 3-1 lead in the seventh.
Patton, who took over on the mound in the fourth inning, was in a groove and well-rested at that point in the game. After the leadoff batter reached for Lakewood in the bottom half of the seventh, Patton set the Lancers down in order with two strikeouts to end it. The junior southpaw earned the win in relief, covering four scoreless innings while allowing just one hit and striking out five.
The victory gives Millikan a springboard into the postseason, where they’ll carry a 21-5 overall record and a second-place finish in league.
“It feels great,” said Harding of the team’s reaction to the win. “This gives us momentum going into the CIF games and hopefully we can keep it going and keep our bats going.”
For Lakewood, they also end up in second place and will look to bounce back after missing out on a potential share of the league title.
“It was one of the best games of the year for us. Millikan’s good and we just shot ourselves in the foot,” said O’Neil after his team’s loss. “It was going to be close no matter what, but defense wins championships. It’s a whole new season in the playoffs and we feel we have a very good pitching staff that can make a run.”
Oddly enough, this Moore League baseball season was the year of the road team. In the 10 games played on campus fields between the Top 4 teams in the league (Poly, Lakewood, Millikan, and Wilson), the away team went a staggering 9-1 in those games. The only time a Moore League team beat a fellow Top 4 school on their home field was Poly’s 1-0 win over Millikan back on April 21.
CIF-SS baseball brackets will be released on Sunday, with first round action set to begin next Thursday. Millikan and Lakewood will both compete in Division 3 while Poly will be the lone Moore League representative in the Division 2 bracket.