By Rick Assad
In a game that will long be remembered by every single player on the Burbank High baseball team including the capacity crowd, the host Bulldogs rallied not once but twice in a CIF Southern Section Division IV second-round game versus El Rancho on Tuesday after pulling out a heart-pounding 4-3 win in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Bulldogs (13-9 and 7-7 for fifth place in the Pacific League) now own a three-game winning streak and will visit Crean Lutheran on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals with a 3:15 p.m. start time.
“That was exciting stuff. I love to see the boys reap the benefits of their hard work,” Burbank coach Bob Hart said. “[Jimmy] Cafferty all year has got the job done. And we’ve shown some resiliency as a coach and that makes you most proud.”
After senior Joe Maslyk grounded to shortstop, senior Danny Betancourt was safe on a bunt to third base. Senior pitcher Juan Contreras came in for senior Justin Cardenas and balked Betancourt to second base.
Senior Julian Gonzalez then rifled a sharp single to right field as Betancourt raced to third base.
Cafferty, a senior, walked to load the bases and up stepped Dylan Kramer.
The senior left fielder hit a ball to the shortstop who wanted to get the lead runner at the plate. His throw was too high as Betancourt scored the winning run.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little nervous. But Jimmy told me to just have a little fun. So I tried my best to relax the best I could. I don’t fully remember myself getting the hit but I remember the ball being in play and me praying that Danny scored,” Kramer said. “When I turned around and I saw everyone rushing the field, it had to be one of the best moments for me this season.”
Kramer added: “What an amazing feeling it was to walk it off like that to send us to the quarterfinals,” he said. “I wouldn’t change the way the game played out for anything.”
This moment could not have happened without the heroics of Cafferty and sophomore Colby Bette.
Cafferty’s two-run homer to right center in the third inning evened the score at 3-3.
“On the home run, I was just trying to protect with two strikes,” Cafferty said. “Then he threw a fastball up and I did what my team needed me to do. Now we have to get ready for another big playoff game.”
Bette was splendid on the mound after throwing six and two-thirds innings, giving up seven hits, striking out six and hitting a batter.
Senior Daniel Edwards entered with two outs in the seventh and nicked senior Felipe De Alba. Edwards righted the ship and fanned junior Noah Rios to end the frame.
The day started well for the Dons (19-11 and 8-4 for second place in the Del Rio League), who rapped four hits and scored two runs in the first.
De Alba ripped a triple off the fence in left center and a Rios single up the middle made it 1-0.
Rios went to second base on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a single by junior Angelo Martinez. Junior Nathaniel Preciado’s force out plated the second run.
The Bulldogs answered with a solo run in the second as senior Ben Castillo (two hits) laced a one-out single to left field which scored senior Adan De Paz, who reached after being hit with the pitch.
El Rancho claimed a 3-1 lead in the top of the third when sophomore David Aguirre (two hits) drilled a single down the left-field line which scored a run.
Gonzalez began the third inning by slicing a single to left field for Burbank.
In what was a tense at-bat by Cafferty, the hard-swinger was able to power the ball over the fence as the large crowd roared its approval.
“That was a great game. The bench was fired up and had great energy throughout,” Cafferty said. “Colby has pitched great for us all year and he was really good again today and gave the offense a chance to win it.”
Kramer capped the day in perfect fashion.
“The game was incredible. We fell behind early but with a big hit from Ben to drive in Adan and then the big two-run homer for Jimmy to score himself and Julian, we tied the game back up,” he said. “Great pitching from Colby and Daniel to keep the game almost scoreless for the last few innings. It was a nerve-wracking game from the start.’
Cardenas toiled six and one-third frames, striking out 10, walking two and surrendering five hits with one hit batter.