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.

Nonetheless. Nonetheless. Nonetheless.

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

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

But that is greater than dedicating a season, or taking part in 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 amazing 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 faculty. Ackermann left inconceivable footwear to fill as this system’s founder, and Coyle has tread flippantly, working with gamers who instructed athletic director Brad Prepare dinner they didn’t need a lot to vary after the lack of Ackermann.

Coyle’s admirably adopted a big-sister position, Arreola mentioned. Nurturing. And thru 10 video games, Oaks Christian is 9-0-1, a staff that’s caught collectively via 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 take up the loss. Spend a couple of minutes with the staff, 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 staff 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 attempting to “be like Pete” to indicate the gamers she cares about them as individuals, she mentioned. Lambert, a Howard College commit, mentioned she struggled with lecturers at instances and Ackermann would textual content her to verify 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 remaining season, the Lions is likely to be extra loaded this yr. Arreola is among the prime hitters within the space, with eight homers in 27 at-bats. They usually’re deeper on the mound, with sophomore Paityn Lavin pairing with junior Emelia Davis to offer Oaks Christian a formidable one-two punch.

The lacking presence remains to be there and might be all yr. So would be the gloves alongside the third-base line, and the handshakes after follow, and the waving after video games. Nonetheless attempting to make “Ack” proud.

Prystajko rising into all-around power

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

The cerebral senior has grown her recreation 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 via eight video games. A shortened swing with much less motion is propelling Prystajko to an amazing 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 mentioned.