By Rick Assad
Daniel Neria’s tour de force on the mound and at the plate was more than enough to help elevate host Burbank High over Burroughs 2-0 in a Pacific League match on Wednesday evening.
Effective from the outset, Neria went six shutout innings while surrendering two hits with nine strikeouts.
“I felt really good. I was able to locate the fastball well and the curveball was a little iffy at first, but I found my way with it in the innings after,” said Neria, a junior, who walked one batter and hit two batters. “I wasn’t really trying to blow it by them, but instead I just let them hit it and I saw a lot more improvement when I had that mentality.”
At the dish, Neria clubbed a pair of singles and added a run-scoring fielder’s choice in the second inning that brought in senior Devin LeClair, who ripped an opposite-field leadoff double to left field and later took third base on a wild pitch.
“At the plate, I was just waiting for a fastball in two out of my three at-bats,” Neria explained. “I had two strikes on me so I shortened my swing, but my stride and my hands were closer to the barrel and I was able to come through for my team. This was really a solid game overall.”
Senior Ryan King, who played shortstop for six innings, went to the hill in the top of the seventh and allowed just one walk to pinch hitter, senior Vincent Sandoval.
Sophomore Sebastian Zamora, who played center field, was used as a pinch runner and advanced to second base on King’s wild pitch.
King fanned junior Aidan Cremarosa, who was the losing pitcher, to begin the frame and retired senior Brandon Mendez on a deep fly to center field.
The game-clinching out and save came on Nate Chapman’s swinging strikeout.
“I was a little fatigued. It’s a rivalry game. I was a little out of breath,” said Cremarosa, who toiled six frames, allowing six hits with eight strikeouts, three walks and one hit batter.
“I tried to keep my composure throughout the game,” Cremarosa said. “My stamina might have fluctuated in the fourth inning. I approach it [the rivalry] just like a regular game.”
The Bulldogs (12-5 and 10-4 for third place in league) extended their advantage to 2-0 in the fourth inning when senior Jacob Drossin smacked a single to center field as Neria, who lashed a base hit to left center, crossed the plate.
These games are somewhat different, even if the players and coaches try to make it otherwise.
“To try to say there isn’t some meaning there, I think is an injustice to these guys, they know it is,” Burbank assistant coach Brett King said of the meeting with Burroughs. “Just try to focus on playing the game. Pick out the things that are important. That’s how you focus on the game. We do what we’ve done all year: we pitched, played defense, we execute situationally.”
Neria was in a little hot water in the first inning when he faced five batters and had two runners in scoring position, but escaped by fanning the last two hitters.
Sophomore Jarell Bijasa walked to open the frame and sophomore Nick Forrest lined to center.
Neria nicked junior Andrew Chapman which moved Bijasa to second base and after a wild pitch, both runners moved up a base.
Knowing the situation, Neria buckled down and fanned junior Mason Medina and senior Joe Estrada both swinging.
Neria retired the side in order in the second, striking out Cremarosa looking and Zamora swinging. Mendez lined to center field for the final out.
The Bears (12-11 and 8-6 for fourth in league) went down 1-2-3 in the third against Neria, who struck out Nate Chapman swinging and induced Bijasa to foul out to right field. When Forrest popped to second base, the inning was concluded.
Burroughs managed a one-out single to left field in the fourth inning by Medina.
Neria was able to get Andrew Chapman to fly out to right field to begin the frame and fanned Estrada looking for the second out. Cremarosa then bounced into a force out for the third out.
“That’s a good team. They hit some balls that I didn’t think they should have hit because the pitch was where it was supposed to be,” Burroughs coach Matt Magallon said. “That ball game could have gone either way. Kudos to them.”
Neria faced five batters in the fifth inning that included a single to left field by Mendez after Zamora led off by striking out looking. Mendez swiped second base.
Nate Chapman was hit with an offering and after Bijasa lifted a fly ball to center field which saw Mendez take third base, Forrest grounded out to first base who flipped the ball to the pitcher.
Neria took care of the Bears 1-2-3 in the sixth inning as Andrew Chapman fanned swinging.
Medina hit a drive to center field for the second out and Estrada struck out swinging.
Junior Wyatt Lamarsna collected a double in the second inning and a single in the sixth for the Bulldogs.