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 follow, nonetheless assemble in rows to offer earnest handshakes and fist-bumps to each coach after follow.

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 crew 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 middle subject that reads “Peter Ackermann Field.” A poster is on the batting cage with the Ackermann quote, “Culture Before Championships.” The crew 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 follow 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 mentioned. “I feel like sometimes I can feel him, but I can’t hear him.”

It’s put an incredible accountability on first-year head coach Cheyenne Coyle, an All-American shortstop at Arizona State and most just lately assistant athletic director at Oaks Christian’s center faculty. Ackermann left inconceivable footwear to fill as this system’s founder, and Coyle has tread evenly, working with gamers who advised 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 position, Arreola mentioned. Nurturing. And by way of 10 video games, Oaks Christian is 9-0-1, a crew that’s caught collectively by way 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 mentioned of Coyle.

As traditions have helped them transfer ahead, reminiscences have helped soak up the loss. Spend a couple of minutes with the crew, 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 crew van to run throughout the road and persuade the child to come back again and ask Lambert for her Snapchat.

Coyle, in her personal approach, has been making an attempt to “be like Pete” to indicate the gamers she cares about them as individuals, she mentioned. Lambert, a Howard University commit, mentioned she struggled with lecturers at instances and Ackermann would textual content her to verify in about her grades; Coyle texted her just lately that she was pleased with her after a tough week, a gesture that resonated with Lambert.

After going 34-1 in Ackermann’s closing season, the Lions is likely to be extra loaded this 12 months. Arreola is likely one of the high 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 offer Oaks Christian a formidable one-two punch.

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The lacking presence remains to be there and can be all 12 months. So would be the gloves alongside the third-base line, and the handshakes after follow, 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 among the best pitchers within the Southern Section final season, the Stanford commit posting a 0.46 ERA.

The cerebral senior has grown her recreation another way this 12 months — after hitting .271 final season with three homers, she’s as much as a .632 common and 5 homers this 12 months by way of eight video games. A shortened swing with much less motion is propelling Prystajko to an incredible begin as among the best 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 mentioned.