By Jim Riggio
Special to MyBurbank
Contributions from Dick Dornan, Sports Editor
Rivalries are at their best when two teams are successful and evenly matched. That is what makes the softball showdowns between Burbank and Burroughs highly exciting.
Both teams have won at least 10 games in the 14-game Pacific League schedule each of the past four seasons. Burroughs has five straight seasons of at least 10 wins in league.
Burbank won the league title last season (its first since 1987) by going unbeaten and finishing 25-3 overall. Burroughs, which had won the three previous league titles (2010, 2011, 2012), slipped a bit. This year the Indians are looking to regain the league championship.
The two cross-town rivals will meet on April 24 and May 14 to vie for city supremacy and hopefully another league title.
The Bulldogs have a new coach in Mike Delaney, who spent the past nine seasons as the head coach at Village Christian.
“I knew it was time to move on,” Delaney said of leaving Village Christian. “I had been at Village for 16 years and 27 years as a family. It was time for a new challenge.”
Delaney inherits eight players who were full-time varsity players last season and 10 of his 14 players have at least some varsity experience.
The headliner is junior Caitlyn Brooks, who has already committed to the University of Notre Dame, and is considered one of the top pitchers in the nation. Brooks was a first-team All-CIF selection who had a remarkable sophomore season.
She had a 25-3 record with 23 complete games, 21 shutouts, 309 strikeouts and 0.78 era. At the plate she led BHS in batting average (.526), runs (42), hits (40), RBI’s (35) and home runs (12).
Brooks will be throwing to junior Bridgette Pisa, who returns as the starting catcher. Pisa batted .438 a year ago.
Junior Jazmin Orozco (.417 avg.) may also see time behind the plate and may play a number of roles for the Bulldogs.
Sophomore Julia Duarte, a returning varsity player who hit .371, takes over at first base for the graduated Tiffany Pisa.
Sophomore Cailey Stevenson, who spent part of last season on varsity, is expected to play second base.
Junior Mandy DeLeon and sophomore Sabrina Stewart, a transfer from Burroughs, are expected to compete for playing time at shortstop.
Junior Lily Winn (.430 avg., 30 RBI’s) returns as the starting third baseman.
Senior Kaitlin Brooks (.400 avg.) leads a group of outfielders that include junior Allyson Capili and sophomores Amber Ingram, Izzy Frias. Freshman Sarah Sarquiz is a utility player who could play a number of roles.
Junior Hanna Moulton is Caitlyn Brooks’ backup on the mound.
“Our goal is to get CIF,” Delaney said. “They know what it takes. They’ve been working hard since October. They have a good attitude.”
While his team is confident of getting towards its goal, Delaney said he expects it will not be easy to win league.
“Winning league is the first step,” Delaney said. “There will be tough competition with Burroughs and Crescenta Valley.”
The Indians went 19-9 last season with just one senior on the roster. Still relatively young with just four seniors among the 18 players on the roster this year, Burroughs looks to improve with 12 returning varsity players.
“This is the deepest team we’ve had in a long time,” fourth-year coach Doug Nicol said. “We have a lot of good players.”
Nicol has three pitchers he can count on in senior Cheyenne Steward (9-3, 2.29 era., .431 average, five home runs) and junior Naelsye Garcia and sophomore Danielle Ryan.
“They all do different things well,” Nicol said. “Until league starts they will all be competing. They are all pretty equal.”
Junior Michelle Santiago (.443 avg., five home runs) returns at catcher with senior Jessica Little, sophomore Brianna Devellano and freshman Destiny Velasquez as capable backups.
Junior Tori Talavera returns at first base.
The second base job could do to either senior Aimee Rodriguez or junior Kailaine Oasay. Nicol said Rodriguez can play any one of the four infield positions.
Sophomore Kaitlin Okimoto, a second-team all-league selection last season is slated to be the starting shortstop. She batted .398 with a team-leading 28 RBI’s in 2013.
The third base job could go to junior Sabrina Espitia or Rodriguez.
The outfield is strong with three returning starters. Junior DJ Santos is expected to start in left field. Junior Delaney Nicol, a first-team all-league pick last season who batted .449 and drove in 19 runs, will play center field. Senior Sidney Ortega (.418 avg.) is expected to start in right field.
“The entire outfield made just one error all of last year,” Doug Nicol said.
Freshman Amanda Flores and juniors Tara Seavey and Maile Tanigawa give JBHS a solid trio of backups in the outfield.
Nicol said manufacturing runs will not be a problem.
“Our girls can hit the ball,” he said.
Nicol said the key will be pitching and feels optimistic that area will be solid.
“These girls work well together,” he said.
Burbank opens its season on March 7 against Thousand Oaks in the Hart Tournament. Burroughs plays Buena on March 8 in the Simi Valley Tournament.