The562’s high school baseball and softball coverage for the 2022 season is sponsored by LBUSD Board of Education Member Megan Kerr
It’s apropos for the hotly contested 2022 Moore League baseball season to end with a one-run game on Bohl Diamond at Blair Field, and that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday night.
After Millikan pitcher Myles Patton and Long Beach Poly pitcher Ryan Skjonsby battled through six scoreless innings, Rams center fielder Cameron Hegamin delivered a game-winning bases loaded single in the bottom of the seventh to clinch the outright Moore League title for Millikan (20-9, 11-1) with a 1-0 victory.
“We saw Wilson in the crowd and we tried our hardest not to give it to them,” Hegamin said. “They’re a great team too, but it has to be us.”
“Winning it with someone else doesn’t really feel like winning it,” Patton said. “(Winning the league title outright) has been our goal from the very beginning, from the end of last season… we worked hard to achieve it and we persevered and got it done.”
It is the first league title for the Rams since 2018, and their fourth in the last six seasons. They also won a CIF Southern Section championship last year.
“It’s really about how you remember that last game,” Millikan coach Ron Keester said. “If we lose (tonight) and win (a share of the league title) it’s still a championship, but it’s not. The way they did it tonight, to be able to celebrate it on the field, that’s the moment we play for and that’s the moment they went out and got. They took it, and I’m very proud of what they were able to do tonight.”
Patton only pitched into the sixth inning because of pitch count limitations after Poly fouled off 21 pitches with two strikes. However, after giving up consecutive singles in the first inning, the senior southpaw was certainly effective. Patton tossed 6.2 scoreless innings while giving up three hits, two walks and striking out nine.
“I didn’t really have my best command or my best stuff so I just tried to battle at-bats and not allow any walks,” Patton said. “I wasn’t really able to locate but I threw competitive pitches when I needed to and where I needed to, especially on my last two outs. The defense picked me up and we grinded through the game.”
Patton, a Long Beach State Dirtbags signee, gave up two runs in five league starts this season on Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.
Millikan put a runner on base in every inning against Poly starter Ryan Skjonsby, but the senior was phenomenal out of the stretch. He scattered five hits and four walks while striking out eight.
“He battled pitch for pitch,” Lavoie said of Skjonsby. “He’s going to mix, change speeds and get you off balance. He’s just a competitor. He wanted the ball.”
“I definitely liked the crowd energy from my Wilson friends and everyone else who came out to support, like the alumni,” Skjonsby said. “They were feeding me energy and I was using that to pitch well.”
Skjonsby got a pair of pop outs in the second inning to strand a pair of runners in scoring position, and used two more fly balls and a strikeout to work around a leadoff walk in the sixth.
With Skjonsby creeping up on his pitch limit, Rams left fielder Christian Cuffaro legged out a hustle double to right center field to lead off the seventh inning. After a strikeout, pinch hitter Noah Lomeli and shortstop Sam DeCarlo both worked impressive walks to load the bases and chase Skjonsby.
Sebastian Byrd came out of the bullpen for Poly (14-14, 6-6) but Hagamin greeted him rudely with a single through the left side with the infield in.
“He’s a contact guy but he’s a really good hitter with sneaky pop," Keester said of Hegamin. "He’s patient, can extend at bats and he’s the right guy up that we want in that situation.”
Hegamin had struck out twice and reached on a bunt single before his clutch at-bat in the seventh.
“I was looking straight fastball and he hung an off speed so I just went for it,” Hegamin said. “Against Lakewood I was in the same spot and I kind of just learned from that at-bat to just stay within myself. I’m a good hitter and good things will happen if I hit the ball hard.”
Millikan only needed one run to win because junior Austin Paul came out of the bullpen and continued Patton’s shutout again. He got a line out to end the sixth, and pitched a perfect seventh with two strikeouts. He pitched 1.1 scoreless innings in a similar situation against Lakewood earlier this month.
“He was able to build on that experience and do the same thing here tonight,” Keester said of Paul.
Keester also thinks that just a few plays decided the league title this year. Four of the Rams’ six games against the other league playoff teams were decided by one run.
“All of these teams are about the same talent,” he said. “Our guys just happened to make a few more plays and were able to grow confidence and take that forward.”
“It was just staying focused,” Hegamin said of winning low-scoring league games. “We know we’re a good hitting team so we just have to trust it. There’s been spots like that against Charlie (Royle) and Anthony (Eyanson) and we just need to compete to the last out and we did that today.”
The CIF-SS playoff brackets will be released on Monday.