The562’s high school baseball and softball coverage for the 2022 season is sponsored by LBUSD Board of Education Member Megan Kerr.
The Millikan Rams have played seven CIF-SS playoff games over the past two seasons. They’ve now won all seven of those contests while allowing a grand total of three runs.
Following Tuesday’s 3-0 shutout victory in Santa Clarita, two of those wins have come at the expense of Hart High, who fell to Millikan in last year’s Division 3 semifinals before losing to the Rams in the second round of this year’s Division 2 bracket.
Again it was senior lefty Myles Patton stealing the show, tossing a complete game shutout while facing just three batters over the minimum. The Long Beach State signee struck out eight, allowed two weakly hit singles, plus hit a batter and issued a walk. Oh by the way, he also delivered the game-winning RBI with a sacrifice fly in the first inning.
“From playing (Hart) last year, we know they’re a really good team, I respect them a lot,” said Patton, who gave a ferocious fist pump as the final out was recorded. “They’ve got a lot of really good hitters. I just wanted to compete, give it my all, and show them again that it wasn’t a fluke last year and that I deserved to win. And that’s what I did. I’m happy about it.”
Patton was forced to throw just a handful of pitches from the stretch, and only allowed one Hart baserunner to reach scoring position all day. He was backed up by superb defense, led by Sam DeCarlo at shortstop, Israel Santillan at third base, and Cameron Hegamin in center field.
“What more can you say about Myles?” wondered Millikan head coach Ron Keester after the win. “That might have been the best game I’ve seen him pitch. And it’s been a lot of really good games, it’s hard to choose from. But that was special today.”
Reminiscent of last year’s playoff run for Millikan, Patton had the luxury of pitching with a lead for the entire ballgame. The Rams drew three consecutive walks with one out in the top of the first inning before Patton drove in the first run with a sac fly to right, scoring Hegamin (2 BB, R) from third base.
Then in the top of the second, senior Ryan Geck jumped on an outside fastball and drove it the other way, easily clearing the right field fence to double the Rams’ lead with a solo home run.
“I looked at the field, and I didn't know the exact dimensions, but I knew right field was a little bit short,” Geck explained of his preparation for this game. “And he gave me an outside fastball, and I wasn't thinking hit it out, it was just the right pitch at the right time and it went out.”
At first base, Geck collected a number of putouts on solid plays from his infielders. The Rams have yet to make an error so far in these playoffs, and also had a few standout plays that took hits away, including a nifty over-the-shoulder grab by DeCarlo in the sixth inning.
“I love the way we played on defense,” said Geck. “Every ball that was in the field, I knew it was an out. If it wasn't going over the fence, we were gonna catch it. We were gonna get an out.”
Geck added an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning with an RBI single to center, ending his day at the plate 2/3 with a homer and two RBIs. Gannon De La Cruz also added two singles and a walk for the Millikan offense.
The energy around the team is drawing similarities to last year’s CIF title team. Despite the Rams returning just two starters off that squad, things have fallen into place in these playoffs so far, with early runs on the road, elite pitching and flawless defense.
“They saw how they did it last year and they're kind of mimicking that way,” Keester said. “What better group to follow after? They're not freaked out by the moment. They know they’ve got a good guy on the mound, and if they go out and do what they're supposed to do, and do it the right way, that they're going to be okay. It's worked out so far. But I think they learned it from last year's group. It seems very similar–the mood, the atmosphere, the tempo and all that.”
During last year’s title run, the Rams had to win a pair of road games in the South Bay, so it’s only right the Rams will be back in that part of town for the quarterfinals. Millikan will be at Palos Verdes on Friday at 3:15 with a trip to the Division 2 semifinals on the line.
“I think now we're playing with just as much confidence, just as much belief in ourselves as we were last year,” said Patton. “Which is really, really fun to see.”