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 present 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 workforce 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 discipline that reads “Peter Ackermann Discipline.” A poster is on the batting cage with the Ackermann quote, “Tradition Earlier than Championships.” The workforce 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 simply appears like some piece is like, gone,” senior first baseman Anahi Arreola stated. “I really feel like typically I can really feel him, however 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 lately assistant athletic director at Oaks Christian’s center college. 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 alter after the lack of Ackermann.

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

“As we continued to develop and find out how she is as a coach, it felt like residence once more,” Arreola stated of Coyle.

As traditions have helped them transfer ahead, reminiscences have helped soak up 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 point out the gamers she cares about them as folks, she stated. Lambert, a Howard College commit, stated she struggled with teachers at occasions and Ackermann would textual content her to test 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 may be extra loaded this 12 months. Arreola is likely one of the prime hitters within the space, with eight homers in 27 at-bats. And so they’re deeper on the mound, with sophomore Paityn Lavin pairing with junior Emelia Davis to present Oaks Christian a formidable one-two punch.

The lacking presence remains to be there and will probably 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. Nonetheless making an attempt to make “Ack” proud.

Prystajko rising into all-around pressure

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 sport otherwise 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 via 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.

“Final 12 months, she had this stigma the place she was a one-dimensional kind of participant. … I feel that drives her,” Forsberg stated.