The562’s high school baseball and softball coverage for the 2022 season is sponsored by LBUSD Board of Education Member Megan Kerr
Sophomore pitcher Ava Schaffel and Millikan softball overcame an emotional 24 hours this week to all but clinch their second consecutive Moore League title.
On Tuesday night, Millikan beat rival Lakewood in a first-place showdown at Lisa Fernandez Field, and then on Wednesday at Joe Rodgers the Rams rode another fantastic start from Schaffel in a 5-0 win. Millikan finishes out the regular season against Compton on April 26.
In her 14 innings against Lakewood and Poly, Schaffel gave up seven hits, six walks and one earned run while striking out 20 batters. She was viably emotional and cried during the post game celebration.
“These are definitely tears of joy, I’m just so happy,” Schaffel said. “With all of the obstacles we just came together. We all know we’re just stronger as a team.”
Schaffel filled in as ace for the second half of the season after Victoria Byrum suffered an injury on the last play of the loss to Lakewood last month.
“We were just fortunate to have so much depth in the circle,” Millikan first-year Michelle Lehr said. “We played well enough today to beat a top Division 1 school. There was no doubt in my mind that we were the best team in the league.”
During the post game team talk, Lehr and the Rams discussed how they had to work hard getting to know each other this season.
“It was about seeing that there was such a disconnect,” third baseman Arianna Ramirez said of working with a new coaching staff. “It showed us that we needed to figure things out and come together to win. I just think (the coaches) bring a lot more knowledge.”
Ramirez had two hits, three RBI and a run scored. She capped the scoring in the third inning with a two-RBI triple when Millikan plated four runs. Emily Hanniff and Shorty Wright also drove in runs in the inning. Erica Estrada and Katie Knarr both finished with two hits.
“We played it like a tournament,” Ramirez said of the busy week. “It’s just about having fun and trusting each other. It was just coming out here, knowing what we have and executing.”
Schaffel struck out six of the first nine batters she faced while her team gave her a big lead. Poly didn’t record its first hit until the sixth inning when Vanessa Correa reached on an infield single and Tiare Ho-Ching reached on a bloop single to right field. Schaffel got a strikeout and a ground out to end the threat. She finished with 13 strikeouts.
“I just think happy thoughts and try to keep it positive,” Schaffel said of keeping her emotions in control. “In the first inning I saw that they were swinging at the rise balls so I was just trying to get everything up, like my curve ball and screwball. I was just bringing it up.”
“It looks amazing,” Ramirez said of watching Schaffel work. “I get so excited when she hits any pitch. It can be the first pitch of the game or the last pitch of the game. It’s just so special, she’s amazing.”
“I feel like she’s been groomed for this,” Lehr said of Schaffel. “She’s been playing up in 18 Gold (travel softball) so she’s been playing at a high level. When you have that opportunity to play at that level at a young age it gives you the ability to be mentally strong enough in a game like this. She’s already experienced that in showcases where college coaches are watching her. To me that’s more pressure. I’m proud of her. I think what she did is exceptional.”