Millikan Softball

Millikan Rams Softball Season Preview

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The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2023-24 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.

The Millikan Rams are in a golden era for their softball program. Not since the late 1980’s had the Rams claimed three straight Moore League titles, and they’ll have the chance to make it four in a row this spring.

Millikan has gone a combined 62-28 over the past three seasons, including a trip to the 2022 CIF-SS Division 2 championship game. In all three of those years, the Rams have gone 11-1 against the Moore League. Enough to win the crown, but also enough to keep them hungry for that one extra win.

“Without a doubt, we want to go undefeated,” said Rams head coach Michelle Lehr, now in her third season at Millikan. “We haven’t been undefeated since we’ve been here, and it’s always put our last game on the line to determine if we win league outright or share it with someone, and we don’t want to be in that position anymore.”

Last season, roles were well defined for the Rams, who had eight returning starters, including seven seniors in their lineup. But with that large senior class now off to college, Millikan will need to rely on a few key veterans, while having the door open for younger players to earn playing time.

Millikan’s biggest advantage over the rest of the Moore League appears to be in the circle, where Ava Schaffel is back healthy heading into her final season with the Rams. The San Diego State commit was injured heading into junior year, but is in a better spot physically this time around and has shown the ability to dominate opposing lineups.

In just 20.1 innings pitched as a junior, Schaffel racked up an impressive 42 strikeouts with a solid 2.07 ERA. This offseason has been about building her back up to be Millikan’s potential workhorse in 2024, and she took a big step forward recently by throwing seven innings against Huntington Beach.

“It was a little bit inconsistent, but we both feel like it was a really good starting point for her,” Lehr said of her senior righthander. “She hasn’t thrown seven innings in probably two and a half months, so now we’re trying to build stamina to get her there. I’m really excited. I think that we’re gonna have a really, really good year and I expect a lot from her.”

The Rams also have junior Lauren Cantwell, who picked up extra innings last season and gained a lot of experience with Schaffel on the mend. Cantwell threw 61.1 innings with a 2.74 ERA, showcasing an ability to limit free passes.

Katie Knarr is a four-year starter for Millikan and should be one of the Moore League’s top hitters.

Offensively, four-year starter Katie Knarr is the heart of the team at first base. The Rhode Island commit is a great hitter and an important leader for the Rams who has won a lot of games during her high school career.

“I’m just so excited. It’s gone by so fast, and I’ve loved seeing our program grow as well,” said Knarr of her time at Millikan. “Freshman year, me and Ava were the only two freshmen to play on varsity, and this year we have 13 first-year varsity players. So it’s just so exciting to see how our program is growing and how (Assistant Coach) Mike (Mathis) and Michelle are planning the future to win more championships and keep making history for Millikan.”

Last season, Knarr led the Rams in runs (23), hits (29), RBIs (20), doubles (8) and home runs (4) while posting a strong .403 batting average. 

The Rams have some other big bats in the lineup, including junior Morgan Zimmerman, who has been swinging a hot bat early in the year. The third baseman has been in the leadoff spot for Millikan, and while she may not fit the “speedster” archetype, Lehr has praised Zimmerman’s aggressive baserunning and her ability to hit the ball hard consistently.

Sophomore Addy Everett was the lone freshman to start last season on varsity for Millikan, and she was one of the team’s best power bats with three homers and 17 RBIs. She’s been rotating in at third base and will also play at DP to keep her bat in the lineup.

Junior Jocelyn Owen is a returning starter behind the plate, and senior Mikaela Pacheco adds good experience in left field. Seniors Hailey Ibarra and Grace Shary are looking to replace three-year starters up the middle–at second base and shortstop, respectively–and will have healthy competition from younger players on the roster.

Lehr said that she’s really impressed with her freshman and sophomore classes, who could very well force her hand for playing time this season.

There will for sure be battles for playing time in the outfield, but sophomore Hailey Fematt has established herself as a defensive weapon in center. She’s already thrown out a pair of runners at the plate in the early stages of the season, adding a nice piece to the Millikan defense. Senior Lela “Hyphy” Asi should see an expanded role in the outfield after hitting .320 in 31 plate appearances as a junior.

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The Rams know they’ll have a target on their backs once again, but are confident their talent will keep them on top. Knarr has never lost a Moore League title, and has no plans on starting now.

“It’s all consistency. A consistent practice schedule, consistent hitting and fielding, and everything that plays into being successful in the game,” Knarr said on how the Rams can reach their ultimate goal. “Just stay consistent on that and not stop working because you win one game or you play well. Always keep working, even when no one’s watching.”

After a challenging non-league schedule, Millikan will host its first big Moore League game against Long Beach Poly on March 14. The Jackrabbits were the only league team to beat the Rams last year, so you can be sure that both of those meetings will be circled on the calendar. 

Millikan’s rivalry games against Lakewood are currently scheduled for March 26 and April 24 at Lisa Fernandez Field, with that final meeting closing out the regular season.

Projected Starting Lineup:

C – Jocelyn Owen (Jr.)

1B – Katie Knarr (Sr.)

2B – Hailey Ibarra (Sr.) / Riley McAndrew (So.) / Julia “JuJu” Dizon (Fr.)

SS – Grace Shary (Sr.) / Lauren Kim (Fr.)

3B – Morgan Zimmerman (Jr.) / Addy Everett (So.)

LF – Mikaela Pacheco (Sr.) / Chiala “KiKi” Villanueva (Jr.)

CF – Hailey Fematt (So.)

RF – Lela “Hyphy” Asi (Sr.) / Kayla Cisneros (So.) / Lexi Everett (So.)

DP – Addy Everett (So.) / Ava Schaffel (Sr.)

P – Ava Schaffel (Sr.) / Lauren Cantwell (Jr.) / Riley McAndrew (So.)

Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.