The562’s high school baseball and softball coverage for the 2022 season is sponsored by LBUSD Board of Education Member Megan Kerr.
In Millikan’s last three Moore League games against playoff opponents, the Rams scored a combined two runs on 16 hits across 23 innings. Oh, how sweet it is to be playing postseason baseball.
In their 2022 playoff opener, the defending Division 3 CIF champions opened up their D2 playoff run with 10 runs on 13 hits against Mission Viejo on Thursday, eliminating the Diablos with a 10-1 victory.
“It’s a great feeling to get 10 runs, especially in a playoff game to be able to relax a little bit,” said Millikan head coach Ron Keester. “Especially after the Moore League season and all that stuff. And there’s nothing like a playoff win–that next day, with the team coming together, it’s so cool.”
The Rams offense collected at least one hit in every inning, and continued to pester the Diablos pitchers and defenders all afternoon. Millikan had just one extra-base hit and 12 singles, while also taking a handful of extra bases with an aggressive gameplan on the basepaths.
Gannon De La Cruz was 3/3 at the plate with a run scored and a trio of RBIs. Cameron Hegamin was often the guy scoring on those De La Cruz singles, going 2/3 with a walk, scoring three times while driving in four more runs.
Starting pitcher Myles Patton had another strong outing on the mound, going 6.2 innings allowing one run on two hits and three walks. The Long Beach State signee also had nine strikeouts on the day and didn’t allow his first hit until there were two outs in the fifth inning. Patton also helped himself at the plate, getting the scoring started with a two-out, two-run single through the left side to score Hegamin and De La Cruz, making it 2-0 Rams in the third.
“They don't feel like they have to be perfect when you go up 2-0 with Myles on the mound,” said Keester of his team. “They know that if we don't score again, then we’ve still got a chance. But it makes life easier if we go ahead and score, and they were able to get it done. We did a lot of good things today, taking bases and getting bunts and making them play defense. It was a good game for us all the way around.”
After the two runs in the third, Millikan busted out for three more in the fourth. After a Ryan Geck single with one out, the Rams used a hit and run with Alex Womack at the plate, who beat out a single to shortstop. With two outs, the Rams again put a runner in motion at first, and Hegamin placed a slow dribbler through the vacated hole at second base for an RBI. The next batter was De La Cruz, who beat out another infield single that plated two runs as Hegamin came all the way home from second for the 5-0 lead.
“It’s great and it builds confidence,” said De La Cruz of the offense’s performance in their playoff opener. “It takes a little weight off your shoulders and then you’re hyped when you get back in the dugout to put some more on … We always want to put runners in scoring position any way we can. You’ve got to be aggressive at all times.”
The Rams really put the game away in the fifth as they scored five times. Millikan opened the inning with three straight singles from Patton, Noah Lomeli and Christian Cuffaro, and the big blow of the rally was a bases-clearing double from Hegamin to bring in three runs.
“It was definitely a statement we wanted to make,” said Hegamin of the offensive output. “A lot of schools don't know that we face really good pitching in our league, and they might just see our scores and assume we can’t hit. It feels amazing to prove who we are and what we can do.”
The Rams will hit the road for round two, where they’ll face a familiar opponent.. Millikan will get a rematch from last year’s Division 3 semifinals, taking on Hart High School up in Santa Clarita. According to Hegamin, the Rams’ confidence in this postseason is sky high as they look to claim another CIF title later this month.
“We definitely think we can make a really big playoff run,” said the junior centerfielder. “I mean, we're confident and we love each other. We just play for each other and that’s what it's all about. We feel like we're invincible, which is the greatest feeling in the world as a team.”