The562’s high school baseball and softball coverage for the 2022 season is sponsored by LBUSD Board of Education Member Megan Kerr
You wouldn’t have been able to figure out the score if you only watched the Millikan softball dugout on Tuesday during the CIF Southern Section Division 2 second round matchup against visiting La Habra.
The Rams fell behind in the first inning and trailed until the seventh, but never lost their energy as a unit.
“It’s the chemistry,” Millikan coach Michelle Lehr said. “These girls feed off of each other with the energy they have. It’s unique. They were down after a sloppy inning and they came back (in the dugout) and they’re louder than they were the inning before.”
Millikan trailed by three runs in the sixth inning but scored four times in the next three innings to beat La Habra 6-5 in eight innings. Shortstop Emily Hanniff tied the game in the seventh with an RBI double, and left fielder Mikaela Pacheco delivered the walk-off single in the bottom of the eighth.
“I think it’s just our energy,” Pacheco said of her team’s ability to come back. “We always keep it so high and we all love each other and we want to win so badly.”
“They know they thrive off of high energy so they know they have to keep that tone in order to be successful,” Lehr added. “So they use that to their advantage. They’re just hyped.”
Millikan (20-10) advances to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2013 and will visit South Hills on Thursday with a trip to the semifinals on the line.
“I think it’s just about having fun,” Millikan third baseman Arianna Ramirez said of her team’s success in the playoffs. “We know what we have, we know each other and it’s just trusting each other.”
Ramirez led the Rams offense with two doubles, a single and a run scored. Her second double led off the eighth inning, and pinch runner Zoey Galindo took third on a sacrifice bunt before she came in to score the winning run on Pacheco’s single. Pacheco had committed a pair of errors in left field that allowed La Habra to take the lead.
“I felt like I had to make up for it somehow,” Pacheco said. “It’s kind of embarrassing for that to happen in front of all of these people. I had to make it right for myself… I was just thinking that I had to hit the ball. I just wanted to win more than anything.”
Millikan committed a season-high five errors in the game.
“This was probably the sloppiest game we’ve had all year defensively, but our pitcher continued to work and our offense is never out of it,” Lehr said. “They’re going to come back every single at bat. There’s no giving up in this team.”
Sophomore starting pitcher Ava Schaffel didn’t have her best day in the circle but continued to limit the damage caused by the errors and hard hit mistakes. La Habra took a 1-0 lead in the first inning thanks to an error, and then a solo home run off the bat of Reese Ruvalcaba in the second inning doubled the visitor’s lead.
“Yesterday she looked her worst in practice and I was nervous,” Lehr said of Schaffel. “But she continued to have really good moments in the game. Every once in a while she missed a spot and they capitalized on it, but she battled back. She was just relentless.”
Schaffel went the distance and scattered six hits while striking out 12 and stranding five runners in scoring position. She got out of a jam in the fifth inning that was caused by errors, but center fielder Erica Estrada threw out a runner at home to end the threat. Schaffel also used a pair of strikeouts to leave runners at second and third in the top of the eighth inning.
“To me she always looks the same because she doesn’t show emotion,” Ramirez said of Schaffel. “She still has the same great energy.”
Millikan cut the lead in half 2-1 in the second inning thanks to Camila Lara’s RBI single that scored Shorty Wright.
The Rams answered the third La Habra run in the fourth inning when Pacheco’s single and a La Habra error allowed Ramirez to score from second with two outs to make it 3-2.
La Habra went up 5-2 in the top of the fifth thanks to a pair of Millikan miscues, but the Rams scored two runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth inning thanks to a double from Katie Knarr and a RBI triple from Wright.
Hailey Ibarra got the Millikan rally going in the seventh inning with a leadoff single up the middle. Pinch-runner China Duncan took third on a sacrifice bunt, and then she scored on Hanniff’s double to tie the game.
“The last time we had a setback defensively it was against Lakewood and we came back and won that game so knew they had the fight in them,” Lehr said.