The562’s high school baseball and softball coverage for the 2022 season is sponsored by LBUSD Board of Education Member Megan Kerr.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
With two future Division I college arms on the mound, it was reasonable to expect a pitcher’s duel between Millikan’s Myles Patton and Wilson’s Charlie Royle on Bohl Diamond at Blair Field. While both starters certainly did their jobs in keeping runs off the board, it was the defenses that played the most pivotal role in Millikan’s narrow 1-0 win on Wednesday afternoon.
“I couldn’t do it without them and they saved the game,” said Patton of his defense after the win. “They kept the game scoreless and made so many great plays. Every single inning there could have been a few hits if the defense wasn’t stepping up and making plays behind me. They were huge today, it was all them really.”
Patton recorded a complete game shutout, allowing five hits and a walk over seven innings with five strikeouts. He didn’t miss as many bats as usual in this outing, but got the big outs when he needed them. Wilson had the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position with just one out in the seventh inning, but the senior southpaw recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the game.
“He can’t do anything more for us that we haven’t already seen, but today was pretty impressive,” said Millikan head coach Ron Keester of Patton’s performance. “When we needed it most, he was at his best, which it seems like he’s been for the last 20-25 games of his career.”
With so many familiar faces in the opposing lineup, Patton admitted that it’s trickier to get guys out when they’re so familiar with your stuff, but he still found a way to keep runs off the board in a battle for the top spot in the Moore League standings.
“I've been playing with Charlie and a bunch of kids on the Wilson team since I was like 13 years old in eighth grade,” said Patton, who is committed to pitch at Long Beach State next season. “I've seen them hundreds of times, so it's a lot harder to strike people out when you've had that many at-bats against them. So I was just trying to keep the pitches down, get weak contact and that's what I was able to do for the most part.”
The Millikan offense looked poised to score in the opening inning against Royle, but the Cal Poly signee wiggled out of trouble nicely. A Sam DeCarlo double and a Cameran Hegamin single put runners at the corners with nobody out. Royle then got back-to-back strikeouts and eventually escaped the jam with a harmless ground ball to strand the bases loaded.
The Rams again put runners at the corners with two outs in the second inning, thanks to singles from Ryan Geck and DeCarlo (2/2, 2B, BB). With DeCarlo dancing off first base, he got caught in a rundown near the bag as Royle threw over to first. As the Bruins were trying to tag him for the third out, Geck seized the opportunity to race home, and the throw to the plate was a wild one to give Millikan the 1-0 lead.
Keester credited Geck for the aggressive baserunning to put the Rams on the board, with what would prove to be the game-winning run.
“He’s been around and he's played a lot of baseball,” said Keester of Geck. “So he knows the opportunities when they present themselves to go ahead and take advantage, and that's exactly what he did. He saw the opportunity, he scored, and that was the only run scored today.”
Royle did his part to keep Wilson in the game, covering 6 innings while allowing five hits and three walks to go with four strikeouts. He didn’t allow a base hit in his final three innings on the mound, settling in nicely after a busy first three innings.
On the other side, Patton was perfect through three innings until Wilson recorded a pair of base hits from Aaron Mingo and Xander McLaurin, putting runners at the corners with just one out in the fourth. However, a double play ball to third base was just what the doctor ordered for Patton to get out of trouble. It was the defensive highlight from an error-free afternoon for the Millikan nine.
The next best chance for Wilson came in the seventh thanks to a leadoff double down the left field line by Ryan Burack. After a sac bunt attempt was popped up, Zack Wakefield flared a one-out single to right field. However, it wasn’t certain that the ball would drop, forcing Burack to hold at second to prevent the possibility of a game-ending double play.
Unfortunately for Wilson, the ball was never put in play again as Patton got consecutive strikeouts swinging to hold on to the 1-0 win.
It was no doubt a disappointing loss for Wilson and head coach Andy Hall, but the outcome also showed just how thin the margins are in Moore League baseball with plenty of key games left to be played.
“I told (the team) that if you leave here today and you don't believe we can win this thing, then you aren’t paying very close attention,” said Hall of the postgame message he delivered to his players. “I don't think our approach at home plate was very good for the first three innings, and then we kind of calmed down a little bit, put some good swings on the ball and got some to fall between the lines. At the end of the game, the only thing that I can ever hope for is a chance to win, and we had a chance. We absolutely had a chance.”
The Moore League’s top four teams will return to Bohl Diamond at Blair Field next Wednesday as Millikan (11-5, 5-0) takes on Poly in the opener and Wilson (10-6, 3-1) plays Lakewood in the nightcap.