By Rick Assad
Special to BurbankNBeyond
To say the Burbank High softball team is loaded would be like saying the New York Yankees have a high payroll, and just like the Bronx Bombers, who usually own a winning record, so do the Bulldogs who are gunning for the Pacific League crown this year.
Burbank reached the CIF Division III quarterfinals last season after knocking off Arroyo Grande 6-1, La Reina 1-0, Downey 1-0, before losing to Bishop Amat, 10-4.
“We are hoping to be the favorite for the Division III title,” said Burbank Coach Nicole Drabecki, who has one of the most potent lineups in the division.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 2012 campaign in which they batted .409 with 99 extra-base hits, had a .640 slugging percentage, a .480 on-base percentage, and carved out a 23-7 mark with an 11-3 record and second place in league.
So don’t be surprised if Burbank piles up runs and even surpasses last season’s 8.5 runs per contest.
Drabecki, in her sixth season, is thankful to have several quality batters who are capable of hitting for a high average and driving in runs like senior Katie Hooper, who was selected to the all-league, first-team a year ago after pacing the Bulldogs with a .467 batting average along with 11 homers and 42 hits.
“She’s one of the most feared hitters in the area,” said Drabecki of Hooper, a tri-captain who has signed with Cal State University, Northridge.
Hooper is primarily an outfielder, but will also see time as the designated hitter and as a utility player.
Sophomore Caitlyn Brooks is the ace on the pitching staff after winning 16 games in 2012.
“Caitlyn is one of the best pitchers in the country,” said Drabecki of the tri-captain, who struck out 180 batters and saw opposing batters hit a paltry .196 against her.
Brooks, who has made a verbal commitment to the University of Notre Dame, and was third on the team with a .429 batting average along with five home runs and 36 hits, will also see action at first base and DH.
Senior Laina Do will play shortstop and second base and made all-league, second-team after pacing Burbank with 20 stolen bases and had a .444 batting average, which was second best on the team.
“Laina is one of the fastest players on the team,” said Drabecki of Do, who has signed with Yale and is a tri-captain.
Senior Ashley Russo will play center field, pitch, be used as a utility player and batted .377 with 29 hits, 14 runs batted in and was named all-league, second-team.
Junior Kaitlin Brooks will play in a utility capacity, and is a steady defender.
“She’s one of the better fielders and batted .359 with 28 hits and 16 runs batted in,” Drabecki said.
Sophomore Lily Winn will play in the infield, outfield and toil as a catcher after finishing last season with a .354 batting average and 13 stolen bases.
“Lily’s a hustler and a great communicator,” Drabecki said.
Senior Tiffany Pisa will see time in the outfield, first base and also be used in a utility role after belting six doubles with six stolen bases and a .294 batting average.
Sophomore Jazmin Orozco will be behind the plate, see time at third base, be employed as a utility player and closed out last season with a .404 batting average along with 10 RBIs and 19 hits.
Sophomore Bridgette Pisa is the starting catcher and threw out seven base runners.
“Bridgette has one of the stronger arms on the team,” said Drabecki of Pisa, who will also be in the outfield, play third base and be used as a utility player.
Offensively, Pisa should make significant strides in the batter’s box after hitting .257 last season.
Junior Dakota Briseno will play in the outfield and be used in a utility role.
“She’s one of the fastest players on the team,” Drabecki said. “I’m hoping for her to improve the outfield.”
Freshman Julia Duarte has the talent to make an immediate impact.
“She has lots of potential,” said Drabecki. “She might be the designated hitter.”