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Laguna Hills' Milo Writes Own Ticket


LAGUNA HILLS — There is a line at the end of one of Jennifer Milo's poems, titled "The Future," that speaks not so much about the future as the past:

"Whatever the future holds for me in whatever I do in life, I will make a difference. I will give 110%, I will set goals in order to accomplish the impossible."

You can look at her past and tell that Milo has emulated the line.

Now the improbable could take place Saturday, when Milo and her Laguna Hills teammates step onto the field at Lakewood's Mayfair Park and try to win the Southern Section Division III softball title against second-seeded Irvine.

A team that has not won a playoff game in Milo's four years is now one victory away from winning the title.

Milo has done everything she can this season to ensure the Hawks reach this point. And she has worked hard to ensure that tomorrow's outcome is different from the semifinals of the Laguna Hills Tournament this season, when Irvine won, 4-1.

It has been a remarkable season for Milo, who is headed to the University of San Diego to pursue a career in international relations. Without relying on the slap bunt, she is batting .479.

"As a power hitter, to be close to hitting .500, to be taking big cuts and stroking the ball, she's an anomaly," Laguna Hills Coach Cary Crouch said. "You have to have an amazing year for that to happen."

It has been an amazing year for Milo and her teammates, who have benefited from the senior first baseman's power supply.

Milo has three home runs and 24 runs batted in. Her numbers might be even better, but Misty Thompson, who bats third, has nine RBIs in the playoffs.

"Nobody was left on base when Jennifer got up," Crouch said. "Misty's definitely getting the pitches to hit. She's gotten hot and hasn't given Jennifer much of a chance."

Thompson has four homers and 34 RBIs this season.

Laguna Hills is the division's highest-scoring team in the playoffs, and has outscored Irvine, 15-10, in four playoff games.

"I do like being a power hitter," Milo said. "Because of my size (5 feet 10 inches, 165 pounds), I don't think I could be a slapper. I like getting up there and hitting the ball hard."

Though she throws left-handed, she doesn't think she loses that much by being a right-handed batter.

"It definitely could help (batting left-handed)," Milo said, "but since I'm not a bunter or slapper, I don't think it would make that much difference because I'm not that fast on the basepaths, anyway."

Her quickness is in her arms and wrists.

After lifting weights during the basketball season, she began her own program in her garage, lifting and using the Stairmaster three times a week.

She said the weight training has helped but is not the reason for her success.

"It has made me stronger, but I don't think the weight training had a tremendous impact on (the batting average)," Milo said. "I think I knew it was my last year and I wanted to go out in the best kind of way; I picked up the intensity at the plate and thought, 'I have nothing to lose.'

"Also, my coach and I have been working a lot on me relaxing. At the plate, I can get too intense, so we've worked on me relaxing, and when I swing, I swing hard and fast with quick hands."

Milo says home runs aren't on her mind.

"I'm not to the point where I'm up there every time swinging for the fence," she said. "A good at-bat for me is a line drive up the middle."

And occasionally, boom.

Milo comes from good stock. Her father, Robert, played in the Phillies' organization. Her brother, also named Robert, got a baseball scholarship to Stanford. And her younger brother, Tony, made the Laguna Hills varsity as a freshman. All are first basemen.

"The person that has been most inspirational to me is my dad," she said. "He has always been my hitting coach, and he works with me whenever there's something wrong with my swing. He's always there to support me in everything."

He certainly has instilled important values in his daughter.

"She's a great leader by example," Crouch said. "For four years, she has been the first one to practice. She works harder than anybody. She's intense. Everything that goes on attitude-wise centers around Jennifer Milo. She's the type of player you would like to have nine of every year."

It would guarantee a bright future.

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