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Lakewood coach Andy Miramontes knows he needs to use players like first-team All-Moore League shortstop Karina Ibarra on the base paths to create offense.

Despite losing some of the best players the Moore League has seen in recent years, Lakewood is still the favorite to win its fifth consecutive league title and 10th in the last 11 years.

Moore League Co-Player of the Year Montana Dixon (Stanford) and Pitcher of the Year Vanessa Foreman (transferred to Gahr High) helped lead the Lancers to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinals last season after finishing the Moore League undefeated.

“And Ari Burns (Cal State Fullerton) among others left us, so they are tough to replace,” Lakewood coach Andy Miramontes said. “But I like this young group of scrappy girls who are hungry for their opportunity. The team dynamics are already clicking well.”

With fewer big hitters in the lineup, Miramontes said he’ll be coaching his offense very differently.

“Our bats have kept us games, but this year we need to manufacture runs and we’ve got a group that plays for each other,” he said.

Returning starters Taylor Pack, Karina Ibarra and CJ Apacible will lead the infield. Pack and Ibarra were first team All-Moore League last season. Apacible, who was second team All-Moore League, will move over to second base.

Senior pitcher Kristen Hernandez and freshman pitcher Cassie Perryman will share time in the circle.  Miramontes said he likes how Hernandez spots the ball and the upside of the young Perryman.

Lakewood starts its league title defense at Mayfair Park’s Lisa Fernandez Field on at 7 p.m. tonight, Thursday, against Millikan.

It’s a new era for the Rams, who finished second last year before narrowly falling to Huntington Beach 5-4 in the the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs. Millikan hasn’t won a playoff game since 2014, but will have a better chance to do so under first-year coach Akemi Fleming after the new playoff equity moved the Rams to Division 2.

Millikan is trying to replace Moore League Co-Player of the Year Angelique “Cheeks” Ramos (Hawaii) who hit .538 while driving in 42 and scoring 34 of the Rams’ 184 runs. Senior KP Perryman is leading the way so far this year after hitting .426 last season with 24 RBIs and five home runs. The first team All-Moore League first baseman has seven hits in her first 10 at bats with five RBIs and a home run.

Millikan is looking for sophomores Rachel Rubio and Gretchen Goldsmith to lead the pitching staff while the other top teams in the league will rely on experienced arms.

Poly has been building towards this season and are hoping for a big year from senior Quinn Marchio. The first team All-Moore League pitcher is one of the best in the area and she has the experience to be a good leader. The Jackrabbits are going to be counting on junior shortstop Evelyn Sablan to solidify the defense while senior Aja Mount leads the offense with Marchio. The pitcher had three hits and two RBIs when she picked up her first win in the circle last week.

The Jackrabbits finished third and were shut out in the first round of the Division 1 playoffs, so they’ll be in Division 3 this season.

Wilson has one of the most experienced pitching staffs in CIF-SS with senior Arisa Cleaveland and junior Joette Vega back in the circle. The two pitchers have tossed a combined 326 innings for the Bruins over the past three seasons. Cleaveland also is hitting .722 with nine runs scored in six games played this season.

Wilson will be competing in Division 3 with Poly. Jordan and Compton will be in Division 4. Cabrillo won four league games last season but won’t be in the playoffs this season for failing to submit the two-year information as required by the CIF bylaw.

JJ has covered Long Beach sports for more than a decade. He's written for multiple newspapers in Southern California, produced professional event videos and won numerous awards for his writing and community service.

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