Baseball Lakewood Millikan

Baseball: Millikan Clinches Moore League Title With Win Over Lakewood

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

The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.

The rest of the Moore League has been trying to keep pace with Millikan all season, and while they haven’t reached the finished line just yet, there’s nobody that can catch the Rams in 2024.

Thanks to an 8-1 victory over their rival Lakewood Lancers on Friday afternoon, Millikan celebrated an outright Moore League title, holding a three game lead over the field with just two games left to play.

“You spend so much time focusing on the game that you kind of forget that the championship is there for the taking,” said Rams head coach Ron Keester. “And when (Anthony) Pack reminded me of that in the 6th inning, I was like, ‘Damn, I think we’re gonna do this.’ So it’s pretty cool. They didn’t talk too much about it, but you could tell how much they’ve wanted it over the last couple of weeks. Where you just mention it or something and you can see it in their eyes. So this is special to them.”

Junior Ben Keisler led the way offensively for Millikan, driving in runs in three of his four trips to the plate, finishing 2/4 with a double, a pair of runs scored and three ribbies. Leadoff man Anthony Minton scored twice and drove in a run, and catcher Connor Patton walked and scored twice while adding an RBI on a squeeze bunt.

Senior Nolan Patterson got the win for Millikan, tossing 5.1 innings while scattering six hits, walking two and striking out a half dozen. Junior Owen Waytas came in to record the final five outs to get the save and secure the victory.

“I thought Patterson was great on the mound, Waytas was as good as he’s been, and I thought our shortstop (Andrew Perez) had a really good game,” Keester said. “A lot of times, two outs, ground balls to him, I think in three innings he ends up making the play at first base where if something happens, now they can have that big inning. He makes it look easy, he’s just a natural shortstop. So I thought it was a very good collective game.”

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Lakewood used a leadoff walk in the top of the first to take an early lead, as Drake Merrill’s RBI double plated Xavier Nunez for the game’s first run. The Lancers consistently put men on base with at least one hit in five of the first six innings, but never cashed in after the first frame.

The Lancer lead didn’t last as Millikan scored twice in the bottom half of the first, with a Keisler RBI groundout followed by an RBI single from Enrique Lopez, who was 2/3 on the day.

Consecutive walks to start the bottom of the second led to another run for Millikan as Connor Patton scored on a ground ball from Minton that got away from the Lakewood shortstop. The Rams tried to add a second run on the play, but Adrian Ramirez was thrown out at home by Lancers second baseman who reacted in just enough time to get the crucial out and help stem the rally.

Keisler added RBIs in the fifth and the sixth innings, first with a double to score Anthony Pack from first, then with a single through the left side of the infield to score Minton. The junior third baseman and cleanup hitter had plenty of chances to drive in runs on Friday, and he relishes the chance to deliver for his team. 

“It’s honestly my favorite thing, and I think with runners in scoring position there’s kind of less pressure on you,” Keisler said. “Because you can just go out and execute, like it takes a sac fly to score a guy or just a ground ball up the middle if there’s just a guy on third. I feel pretty comfortable with runners in scoring position and it’s nice that the top three guys in the lineup always get on base. I mean, Pack, Andrew and Minton, those guys just work hard and get on base.”

Matthew Ness’ two-run, pinch-hit double capped the scoring in the sixth, giving the Rams the 8-1 victory.

Millikan is back on top of the Moore League after a one-year hiatus, previously winning the title in 2022. But most of the roster has turned over from then til now, and the Rams also have the chance to do something special in the final week of the season. If they can defeat Compton next Wednesday and Poly on Friday, they’ll wrap up an undefeated Moore League season.

According to Keisler, it’s something the team has talked about since last year, and they’ve almost attained that lofty goal.

“Winning the championship has always been a thing, but the undefeated thing was probably after the losses to Poly last year,” explained Keisler. “We all kind of just looked at each other after the second loss, especially in Blair Field, and we were just like, ‘Next year is our year, we’re not going to lose.’ So we’ll just keep working hard at it and get the job done.”

Lakewood will finish its season with league games against Jordan and Wilson next week, then CIF-SS playoff brackets will be released on Monday, April 29.

VIDEO: Millikan vs. Lakewood, Baseball
PHOTOS: Millikan vs. Lakewood, Baseball
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.