The562’s high school baseball and softball coverage for the 2022 season is sponsored by LBUSD Board of Education Member Megan Kerr.
A couple hundred fans were in the stands, but thousands will say they were there.
Either way, Long Beach baseball fans will be talking about Friday’s game on Bohl Diamond at Blair Field for years to come.
With first place in the Moore League hanging in the balance, Millikan’s Myles Patton and Lakewood’s Anthony Eyanson took the ball for their respective teams. Both senior aces pitched absolute gems before being forced to give up the ball because of pitch count limitations.
That opened the door for Millikan’s Humberto Tene to drive in the winning run with a single to right center field in the bottom of the ninth inning. It scored Robert Voss to give the Rams a 1-0 win that leaves them alone atop the league standings.
“From the beginning of the game we knew this was going to happen, we just had to find opportunities,” Tene said of the predictable pitcher’s duel. “We just took shorter swings at the plate (in extra innings) and stayed disciplined. We took it one batter at a time.”
The stat lines for future NCAA Division 1 arms Patton and Eyanson were eye popping, starting with the fact that Eyanson didn’t give up a hit in his seven innings on the mound. He struck out 11 batters, walked two and hit one.
“He’s the best athlete in the league,” Lakewood coach Spud O’Neil said of Eyanson. “And there’s so many things he does that people don’t see.”
Patton dealt with more traffic on the base paths while giving up three hits and a walk, but his 13 strikeouts helped him pitch into the eighth inning.
“Both guys controlled the game,” Millikan coach Ron Keester said of Patton. “It was a good old-fashion gun slinging thing.”
“Everybody knew coming into this how big the game was,” Patton said. “It’s our biggest rival, I think one of the biggest rivalries in the country, so we just wanted to leave it all on the line and get the victory. It’s huge.”
Senior Nohea Mapu took over for Eyanson in the eighth inning when he went over 100 pitches. Mapu escaped a two-out bases-loaded jam in the eighth, and then the Rams finally broke through in the ninth inning.
Voss led off and reached on an error before Patton was intentionally walked. Tene came up with one thing on his mind after striking out in the seventh inning with a runner on base.
“My third at-bat I was thinking too much,” Tene said. “But this time I just came up looking for something to hit hard. I just jumped on it.”
Tene, who has been in and out of the lineup all year because of injury, launched a fastball into right center field that was more than deep enough for Voss to come around and score the walk-off run. It was just the fourth hit of the night for Millikan.
Patton thinks the Rams’ ability to win close games comes from playing in them a lot over the last two seasons. Millikan won a CIF championship last season.
“We’ve battled through a lot of games and had huge victories just like this,” Patton said. “It’s nothing new for us. We keep our composure and never give up. We don’t get down on ourselves. We always know we have a chance to win it and that’s definitely what we did tonight.”
Patton and Eyanson both stuck out six batters in the first three innings. The Lancers put runners in scoring position in the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, but Patton kept the Lancers off balance to escape the jams.
“In those big situations you have to make big pitches to win games like this,” Patton said. “I was able to do that tonight.”
“We’re lucky to have him,” Tene said of Patton. “He puts 100 percent in all of the time. Without him I don’t think we would be here.”
Millikan junior Austin Paul came out of the bullpen to pitch 1.1 hitless innings that gave the Rams offense a chance to get something going.
It’s hard to explain how dominant Eyanson was, but the statistics don’t lie. Millikan didn’t hit the ball out of the infield until a fly out to end the fourth inning. The Rams didn’t put a runner in scoring position until the eighth inning.
“He was really good and shut us down for a while,” Patton said of Eyanson. “He was competing and battling out there so it’s a great hard fought win for sure.”
“Even after 100 pitches they were both still dominant,” Keester said of both pitchers. “You find yourself doing things you wouldn’t do if they were at 60 pitches because if you get them (out of the game) you have a chance to win.”
O’Neil said the epic pitching battle reminded him of when his own Shane Watson was able to out duel Wilson’s Chase De Jong 10 years ago.
“Shane won that game because they took De Jong out, so it’s kind of the same thing,” O’Neil said.
Keester thinks the rivalry between Millikan and Lakewood brings out the best in both programs.
“I love doing this against Spud because I respect the guy so much,” Keester said. “He’s helped me as much as anybody when I got this job. I have the utmost respect for him. So to beat him and that Lakewood bunch, it means a lot. And my wife went to Lakewood so I get to hold that over her too. It’s a win win.”
The next marquee league doubleheader on Bohl Diamond at Blair Field is Thursday when Lakewood faces Poly before Millikan takes on Wilson.