It’s been an emotional season for the Millikan softball team. After dealing with the uncertainty of whether or not the season would be played, the Rams won their first outright Moore League title since 2004.
Millikan was dealt another blow just days before the Rams were set to host Chino in the first round of CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs when they were told coach Akemi Fleming had been relieved of her coaching duties.
“It was sad,” Katie Knarr said of when the team found out the news. “We just had to come out here, forget everything and just play softball. We’re all going to remember her as a great amazing coach. But when it came to game time we had to forget any distractions and anything and just go out and play and do our best.”
With Ryan Dent filling in, the Rams forced extra innings but fell short of their comeback in a 2-1 eight-inning loss Thursday afternoon.
“I found out a couple days ago,” Dent said. “I told the girls it is what it is. I’ve been with the girls all year. I told them it wasn’t going to be a big transition, we’re just going to go out there and keep playing our brand of softball. I thought the girls dealt with it fine, it’s a small distraction. But the girls are in good spirits. I thought we played a very complete game today, they just made a few more plays then we did.”
Millikan’s Victoria Byrum and Chino’s Brooklyn Lee Scott traded 1-2-3 innings to finish the first inning scoreless.
Chino’s Renee Sena broke the tie with a leadoff home run at the top of the second inning to give the Cowboys an early 1-0 lead.
Byrum hit the next batter, but got out of the inning after a pop-up and a double play.
After giving up the early home run, Bryum pitched five scoreless innings as she got into a rhythm and stifled the Cowboys.
“Home runs happen,” senior Lily Romero said. “It is what it is, I told her to keep her composure and stay calm and just go after the next batter.”
That mentality worked as one over the minimum the next five innings on her way to seven strikeouts.
In the bottom of the fourth with one out, Knarr got tied the game when she drilled a home run to right center.
“I was just thinking gap to gap,” Knarr said. “Up the middle, just base hits. Don’t try to do too much, just get a nice base hit to get on base.”
Millikan had an opportunity to win the game, when Emily Manniff and Erica Estrada hit back-to-back singles with two outs.
Ari Ramirez then reached first on a single to load the bases. The runners would get stranded to send the game into extra innings.
In the eighth inning, AJ Kuhns Vasquez singled to get on base and then advanced on a wild pitch.
After Byrum struck out the next batter, Kameron Ayala put down a sacrifice bunt to push Kuhns Vasquez to third base.
A single by Rachel Riddle scored Kuhn Vasquez for the eventual game-winning run.
In their last at bats, the Rams were retired in order.
Fleming attended the game and sat in the stands but declined to discuss the dismissal.