Oaks Christian softball carries on in honor of Pete Ackermann

They nonetheless line up their gloves in a neat row alongside the third-base line earlier than apply, nonetheless assemble in rows to provide earnest handshakes and fist-bumps to each coach after apply.

They nonetheless dash out of the dugout earlier than video games and wave to followers after video games.

Still. Still. Still.

Four months after he died, the Westlake Village Oaks Christian High softball workforce honors each Pete Ackermann customized, nonetheless talking within the current tense of their late coach like a beloved grandfather. The shock is gone. But the void of the mentor standing behind the third-base line nonetheless lingers.

An indication hangs in heart area that reads “Peter Ackermann Field.” A poster is on the batting cage with the Ackermann quote, “Culture Before Championships.” The workforce wears shirts with the phrases, “#PlayForPete.”

Yet that is greater than dedicating a season, or enjoying for somebody they’ve misplaced. Grief has no timetable, and every Lions apply is an train in mourning, taking consolation in these traditions after a loss.

“It just feels like some piece is like, gone,” senior first baseman Anahi Arreola stated. “I feel like sometimes I can feel him, but I can’t hear him.”

It’s put an incredible duty on first-year head coach Cheyenne Coyle, an All-American shortstop at Arizona State and most lately assistant athletic director at Oaks Christian’s center college. Ackermann left unimaginable sneakers to fill as this system’s founder, and Coyle has tread calmly, working with gamers who informed athletic director Brad Cook they didn’t need a lot to alter after the lack of Ackermann.

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Coyle’s admirably adopted a big-sister function, Arreola stated. Nurturing. And by means of 10 video games, Oaks Christian is 9-0-1, a workforce that’s caught collectively by means of tragedy and remedy welcoming a brand new chief into the fold.

“As we continued to grow and learn how she is as a coach, it felt like home again,” Arreola stated of Coyle.

As traditions have helped them transfer ahead, recollections have helped take in the loss. Spend a couple of minutes with the workforce, and also you’ll come away with golden nuggets of Ackermann tales. Senior Justine Lambert was laughing whereas recounting her favourite: assembly a random boy in a Chick-Fil-A on a freshman-year journey to Utah, getting rejected asking for his Snapchat, and Ackermann stopping the workforce van to run throughout the road and persuade the child to return again and ask Lambert for her Snapchat.

Coyle, in her personal means, has been making an attempt to “be like Pete” to indicate the gamers she cares about them as individuals, she stated. Lambert, a Howard University commit, stated she struggled with teachers at occasions and Ackermann would textual content her to examine in about her grades; Coyle texted her lately that she was happy with her after a tough week, a gesture that resonated with Lambert.

After going 34-1 in Ackermann’s ultimate season, the Lions is perhaps extra loaded this yr. Arreola is without doubt one of the prime hitters within the space, with eight homers in 27 at-bats. And they’re deeper on the mound, with sophomore Paityn Lavin pairing with junior Emelia Davis to provide Oaks Christian a formidable one-two punch.

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The lacking presence remains to be there and shall be all yr. So would be the gloves alongside the third-base line, and the handshakes after apply, and the waving after video games. Still making an attempt to make “Ack” proud.

Prystajko rising into all-around drive

Huntington Beach’s Zoe Prystajko was the most effective pitchers within the Southern Section final season, the Stanford commit posting a 0.46 ERA.

The cerebral senior has grown her sport another way this yr — after hitting .271 final season with three homers, she’s as much as a .632 common and 5 homers this yr by means of eight video games. A shortened swing with much less motion is propelling Prystajko to an incredible begin as the most effective two-way gamers in Orange County.

“Last year, she had this stigma where she was a one-dimensional type of player. … I think that drives her,” Forsberg stated.