For the first time since 2009, Millikan Baseball is headed to the CIF-SS quarterfinals. The Rams picked up their second consecutive road playoff win on Tuesday, shutting out Torrance High, 3-0, to advance in the Division 3 playoffs.
The keys to success remained the same from last week’s round one victory. Millikan got another terrific outing from junior lefty Myles Patton on the mound, and the offense staked him to an early lead with a few insurance runs added on in the seventh.
“It is Myles on the mound, and then everything else, all these little things that add up,” said Millikan head coach about his team’s success so far in the playoffs. “You never know what one little thing is going to be the difference between a win and a loss. And it could be a couple of things, or it could just be one little play. And I thought today we won most of those one-pitch battles that we had to have.”
After throwing his first seven-inning complete game of the season last Thursday, the junior Patton was somehow even better in round two. Facing an offense that hadn’t been shut out all season, Patton went the distance allowing just four hits and no walks while racking up 10 strikeouts.
“I just want to keep getting better each outing,” Patton said after the win. “These are my first two complete games of the season, and it’s a great time to have them. I’m just trying to throw as many strikes as I can just keep my focus, that’s the biggest thing. I feel like that’s really what I’ve improved on these last couple games. If it’s a close game, no matter what, just keep my focus like it’s 0-0 the whole game and do my thing the whole time.”
Despite that mentality, Patton was still afforded the luxury of an early lead as the Rams again plated a run in the top of the first off Torrance starter Aidan Irvine. Bilal Ali and Dean Ormonde hit back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners with no outs, and Ali would score easily on a well-hit sac fly by Daniel Murillo.
Patton, meanwhile, was sharp early and often. He didn’t allow his first hit until there were two outs in the fourth inning, when junior third baseman and Long Beach State commit Angel Gonzalez lined a base hit into right center. After being called for a balk, Patton got a strikeout to strand the runner at second. He would then proceed to strike out the side in the fifth, giving him eight punchouts through the first five frames.
The Rams offense gave Patton some extra run support in the final inning with a rally started by Tyler Bermundo, who had a pair of singles for Millikan in the win. Troy Harding followed that up with a sacrifice bunt that was misplayed, putting two men on with no outs. After a flyout and a walk to Ali to load the bases, Ormonde hit an RBI grounder to shortstop.
Torrance tried for the double play rather than attempting a force out on Bermundo coming the plate, and an error on the throw to first base allowed Harding to bring in a second run and push the Millikan lead to 3-0. Those additional insurance runs helped ease the pressure on Patton and the entire team.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster,” Patton said of adding the late runs. “it kind of kills their morale and boosts ours a whole lot. I feel like it helps everybody, not just me. Everybody just feels a little more comfortable.”
Torrance did their best to disrupt that comfort with a pair of weakly-hit one-out singles, but Patton bowed his neck for the final two outs. Despite a couple three-ball counts in the final frame, the junior never gave in with a free pass. He picked up a strikeout on a 3-2 pitch and then induced a harmless grounder to shortstop to record the final two outs.
Over the first two playoff appearances of his career, both on the road, Patton has gone a combined 14 innings, allowing just one run on eight hits. And perhaps more impressively, he has racked up 19 strikeouts without issuing a walk.
While it’s easy to be enamored with Patton’s exploits on the mound, the Millikan offense has done well to pester their opponents during these playoffs. In 14 innings during the postseason, the Rams have only gone down in order once. Millikan has scored nine runs in the playoffs and have stranded 16 additional runners on base, driving up their opponents’ pitch count and generating several scoring opportunities.
“We’ve been preaching good at-bats, and I finally think it started to click about three weeks ago,” Keester explained. “And it hasn’t necessarily translated into runs, per se, but it’s translated into late runs. In the last four games, we’ve scored some late runs and that’s really helped. Our guys run hard 90’s, they want to get on base, and they’ve done a really good job making that change.”
Tuesday’s victory was win No. 21 of the season for Millikan, which represents the program’s highest win total in five years. The Rams will put their 21-4 record on the line Friday in the CIF-SS quarterfinals, visiting Saugus High for a 3:15 p.m. contest in Santa Clarita.