Millikan baseball hosting a CIF Southern Section championship game at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field would’ve been considered an impossibility a few months ago. The Rams were only allowed to play one late added Moore League game at the historic local park while they battled for playoff position with three other good teams.
Not only is Millikan taking on Arlington in the Division 3 championship game tonight at 6 p.m. it will be back at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field where the Rams beat Hart in a dramatic semifinal on Tuesday.
“The community and the school is really getting behind them and supporting them and our kids are just feeling really great about the opportunity,” Millikan coach Ron Keester said. “(Playing at Blair) is going to help us not be overwhelmed because we’ve played there and have guys who have played multiple games there.”
“It felt really good,” Millikan catcher Troy Harding said of playing at Blair. “Every time you got a hit or made a play you could hear the roar of the crowd behind you and it just felt like a big league game almost. It’s kind of cool. I think (Friday) it’s going to be triple what it was for semifinals so I’m going to try to not look back in the stands and just focus on the game. We’re going to definitely have a home field advantage.”
Millikan (23-4, 9-3) is trying to win its first CIF title since 1992, and is the first Moore League team to play for a championship since Wilson in 2008. The Rams won CIF titles in 1967, ’69, ’83 and ’91. They also played in the 1997 and 2001 championship games but lost.
Arlington (21-11, 6-6) finished third in the River Valley League but has started swimming hot bats after a four-game losing streak in May. The Lions scored a combined 30 runs in their four playoffs victories with big bats in the heart of the order like Jack Kleveno and Joe Alegre.
It’s also worth noting the Arlington pitching staff has allowed over 120 runs in 32 games, and its last two wins have come by one run. According to local newspaper reports, ace pitcher Jack Khaseampanth had to exit the semifinal after three innings because of a finger injury.
The Lions are trying to win their fourth CIF title and first since 2004.
Keester said he will start senior pitcher Cameron Sims tonight after ace Myles Patton used 90 pitches to get through 6+ innings in the semifinal. Sims turned in a great first playoff performance against Saugus in the quarterfinals, giving up four hits in 4.2 scoreless innings and striking out four. Senior shortstop Daniel Murillo came in to relive him in the fifth and went 2.1 innings striking out five and yielding just one hit. Murillo also came in to close out the semifinal.
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The Millikan coaching staff has been embracing the Rams strong alumni base this week to stay grounded.
“The coaches have been getting texts from alumni and friends and family and some of them we haven’t heard from in years,” Keester said. “They’re just saying, ‘Great job, we’ve been following you,’ and they always end it with, ‘And we’ll see you Friday night.’ It’s just a really good base of guys that have something in common, which is Millikan baseball. And when we get together, because baseball has been such a great part of our lives, we’re able to talk and have a great time and enjoy each others company. It’s great that now we’re all focused on one baseball game and focused on these kids. Our kids have seen small doses of it, and on Friday night they’re going to see a much larger version of it.”
Hear more from Keester, Harding and pitcher Myles Patton on the latest episode of our podcast ‘What Up, Long Beach?!”
Go back and take a trip through the Millikan playoff run with our video highlights, full reports and photos.
Make sure you come back for the LIVE updates box tonight.