By Rick Assad
Struggling at the plate and consequently having difficulty scoring runs couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Burbank High baseball team.
Coming off a one-run effort which resulted in a loss against host and rival Burroughs, the Bulldogs managed two hits and were blanked 4-0 versus visiting California in a CIF Southern Section Division IV wild-card game on Tuesday afternoon.
Looking back at Burbank’s last three games, the Bulldogs managed to score three runs across 23 innings.
“We just didn’t get the job done at the plate, but our pitching has been outstanding all year,” Burbank coach Bob Hart said.
The initial single came off the bat of junior Jimmy Cafferty, who was the losing pitcher, and came with one out in the fifth inning against junior right-hander Wil Valenzuela, who went seven innings while striking out eight and walking five.
Cafferty’s hit to right field moved senior Josh DiPietro, who led off with a walk, to third base.
Junior Dylan Robinson, who plays quarterback on the varsity football team, struck out swinging and senior Wyatt LaMarsna sent a fly ball to center field.
The other base hit by the Bulldogs (15-9 in all games and 10-4 for third in the Pacific League) was made by senior Jared Cantu with one out in the sixth inning.
Burbank, which had a seven-game winning streak and two three-game winning skeins over the course of the season, ran into a pitcher, Valenzuela, who threw fairly hard and had stretches where he retired seven batters and five hitters in a row.
Cantu advanced no further as senior Danny Betancourt smacked a ball to right field and senior Daniel Neria lined to center field.
“We came out flat yesterday. We couldn’t really find anything until later in the game,” said Neria, who was the designated hitter and went hitless in three at-bats.
Neria addressed those times at the plate in which he bounced to shortstop, fouled to right field and lined hard to center field.
“I wasn’t able to time up the first two at-bats but was able to time up the last one, but their guy was able to get the ball,” he said.
Neria, who was on the hill in the contest on the road versus the Bears, liked what Cafferty and DiPietro delivered on the mound.
“Our pitching was great as always. No matter what happened this year, it was a great season for us,” Neria explained. “I’m super proud of what the team has done. I’m excited for the future as well as the future of the other seniors and the Burbank baseball program.”
Neither team managed a base hit until the top of the fourth inning when junior Ben Montanez opened the frame with a sharp single to left.
Montanez raced to second base after senior Nick Jimenez was hit by Cafferty’s pitch.
Two hitters later, Valenzuela ripped a single to center field which plated Montanez and made it 1-0.
The Condors then tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning as Cafferty walked four batters, including an intentional walk to Montanez that filled the bases.
California’s next batter, Jimenez, forced in a run after being walked that made it 2-0 and a bloop hit into shallow left center field by junior Angel Miranda extended the Condors’ cushion to 3-0.
When the Condors (14-13 overall and 7-5 or third place in the Del Rio League) scored a run in the sixth inning, the game was getting out of reach.
The key hit was a run-scoring double to left field by senior Andrew Vasquez that stretched the advantage to 4-0.
Cafferty, a left-handed thrower, went four and two-third innings, yielding two hits, fanning seven, walking four and hitting a pair of batters.
“Jimmy has been outstanding all year. It’s tough to pitch when you don’t have run support,” Hart said. “It becomes pressure filled because you realize that any mistake may cost you the game.”
DiPietro toured two and one-third frames and surrendered three hits with one strikeout.