Oaks Christian Softball Continues in Honor of Pete Ackerman

They still line up their gloves neatly along the third base line before practice, still line up to genuinely shake hands and punch each coach after practice.

They still run out of the dugout before games and wave to fans after games.

Still. Still. Still.

Four months after his death, the Westlake Village Oaks Christian High softball team honors everyone. Pete Ackermann a custom that still speaks in the present tense of his late carriage as of his beloved grandfather. The shock is gone. But the emptiness of the mentor behind the third base line remains.

There is a sign in the center of the field that reads “Peter Ackerman Field”. A poster with Ackermann’s quote “Culture before the championship” hangs on the cage. The team wears T-shirts that say “#PlayForPete”.

And yet it’s more than a dedication to the season or playing for someone they’ve lost. Grief has no timetable, and every Leo practice is an exercise in mourning, a consolation in these traditions after a loss.

“It just feels like some piece is gone,” said senior baseman Anahi Arreola. “It seems to me that sometimes I can feel it, but I can’t listen to him.”

The first-year head coach has a huge responsibility. Cheyenne Coyle, an All-American shortstop at Arizona State and most recently an assistant athletic director at Oakes Christian High School. Ackermann left impossible places to fill as a founder of the program, and Coyle took it easy, working with players who told sporting director Brad Cook they didn’t want to change much after losing Ackermann.

According to Arreola, Coyle did a great job playing the big sister role. Upbringing. And 10 games later, Oaks Christian is 9-0-1, a team glued together by tragedy and therapy hailing a new leader.

“As we continued to grow and get to know her as a coach, we felt right at home again,” Arreola said of Coyle.

As traditions helped them move forward, memories helped them cope with the loss. Spend a few minutes with the team and you’ll walk away with the gold nuggets of Ackermann’s stories. The elder Justine Lambert laughed as she talked about her favorite: meeting a random boy in Chick-Fil-A during a freshman trip to Utah, refusing a request to provide him with Snapchat, and Ackermann stopping the team’s van to cross the street and convince the kids. to go back and ask Lambert Here Snapchat.

According to her, Coyle tried to “be like Pete” in her own way to show the players that she cares about them as people. Lambert, a fellow at Howard University, said she had academic problems at times and Ackermann wrote to her to inquire about her grades; Coyle recently wrote to her that he was proud of her after a tough week, a gesture that resonated with Lambert.

After 34-1 in Ackermann last season, Lions may be more loaded this year. Arreola is one of the best hitters in the area, with eight homers in 27 at-bats. And they’re deeper on the mound, with sophomore Paytin Lavigne paired with junior Emilia Davis to land Oakes Christian a formidable one-two.

The missing presence is still there and will be throughout the year. So will the gloves on the third base line, and the handshakes after practice, and the hand-waving after games. Still trying to make Ek proud.

Prystaiko becomes a universal force

Zoe Prystaiko of Huntington Beach was one of the top pitchers in the southern section last season, Stanford posting a .46 ERA.

The cerebral senior has improved her game in a different way this year – after hitting .271 with three homers last season, she has moved up to a .632 batting average and five homers in eight games this year. A shorter swing with fewer moves allows Prystaiko to start brilliantly as one of the best two-way players in Orange County.

“Last year she had a stigma that she was a one-dimensional player. … I think that drives her,” Forsberg said.