By Rick Assad
Like baseball, softball, which is played on a smaller field, is usually going to be dominated by the pitcher, who has the upper hand.
This being the case, Burroughs High, Burbank and Providence have the right ingredients to contend for a league title as all three have outstanding aces in the circle.
The Bears, who are coming off a 22-11 overall mark and an 8-5 season in the Pacific League, along with the Bulldogs, who went 12-17 and 5-8 in league are primed for a run to the league title.
Burroughs advanced to the Division IV semifinals where the team lost to eventual champion Temple City 7-2.
Before that, the Bears beat Santa Clara 13-3 in the first round, edged Dos Pueblos 6-5 in the second round and blanked Yorba Linda in the quarterfinals 4-0.
It’s no secret that Arcadia, the defending league champions, along with Crescenta Valley, are also going to be in the hunt.
“This year the Pacific League is so competitive. Any of the top four teams can win the championship as we all return our No. 1 pitchers from last season,” Burroughs coach Doug Nicol said. “Crescenta Valley has a very good combination of hitting and pitching and some really tough players to face. They are always tough, and we have developed a really cool rivalry with them. Arcadia is the defending champion, and they return some great players. Coach [Al] Gills and Coach [Darnell] Westbrook are incredible coaches and prepare their players so well. It is always a dogfight with them, and they are tough up and down the lineup.”
Many seniors for the Bears will have something to say about the matter and they include right-handed pitcher/first baseman Stevie Dabbadie, catcher/second baseman/third baseman Rachel Little, second baseman/shortstop Lilly Lewis and outfielder Laurel Piper.
There are several juniors and include pitcher/outfielder Eliza Torres, shortstop/second Gizelle Rangsiyawong, third baseman/catcher Phoebe Spangler, catcher/third baseman Alyssa Rosales, second baseman/shortstop Skylar Vanole, pitcher/outfielder Emerson Coblentz and third baseman/utility J.J. Barrios.
There is a sophomore on the squad, first baseman/outfielder Chloe Centeno and a freshman, outfielder Karlee Earl.
Nicol knows that the Bulldogs are very good and feels it’s going to be super close among several teams.
“Burbank is really good this year. I have a lot of respect for them and their pitcher [Maddison] is really good and their hitting is solid with such a good leader like Samantha Buckley [who will be attending St. Mary’s College in Moraga and will also play softball]. They are very solid up the middle. I think we have as good a chance as anyone,” he said. “I love the way our team has come together. Many people thought this was going to be a rebuilding year, but it really isn’t.”
Nicols went on: “I love this team and the way they fight for each other. If we continue to develop the way we have through the fall and into the spring, then I think we can surprise some people and compete for the league as well,” he noted. “Every game against those teams will be a battle and it just depends who is on their game that day.”
Watch out for the Bulldogs, lost in the Division IV opening round to Temple City, 1-0, under Melissa Sanchez, the coach.
They should be improved and will be led in the circle by Kellogg, a sophomore.
“I strongly believe that this year it’s anyone’s title. Burroughs, CV, Arcadia and we have strong pitchers and a deep lineup all around,” Sanchez said. “I am excited to have an upperclassmen roster for the first time in my coaching career. This is also my first year with three pitchers on varsity which brings me a lot of options and a bit less weight off of Maddy’s shoulders.”
Sanchez added: “I think a lot of teams will be surprised by us this year. I feel really lucky to be a part of this program day in and day out. I have a strong support system with the parents that I have. My athletic directors are wonderful, and we love our fans,” she said. “With all of this support on top of a deep roster, we know what we are capable of. We will take this season one game and one step at a time and focus strictly on what we can control, nothing else.”
The seniors on the team are catcher Shelby Cribbs, shortstop Buckley, second baseman/outfielder Emma Mendoza, first baseman Sasha Quintanar, outfielder Delilah Alvarado, second baseman Tatiana Pisa and infielder Abigail Kimmer.
“The season so far has been very strong. The team is looking very strong and put together. We are working as a team which will help with our season,” Cribbs said. “I am very excited to keep playing but this is my last season so I will make it the best I’ve got. We started league games and started off strong, even with a loss we proved not only to others but ourselves as a team that we have what it takes to be at the top.”
Buckley chimed in. “I love competition in the Pacific League. There are some good schools who are fun to go up against,” she said. “With a starting roster that is made predominantly of seniors this year and Maddie as our No. 1 pitcher, Burbank should be fairly competitive in league play. I’m looking forward to ending my high school career on a high note.’
There are a number of juniors, and they are outfielder Belinda Lujano, third baseman/outfielder Eliza Bowren, outfielder Kara Valencia, first baseman Charley Barnett, catcher Leilah Hernandez and catcher Kendall Chapman.
There are three sophomores, and they include first baseman/third baseman Olivia Orozco, second baseman/pitcher Samantha Cafferty and freshman third baseman/pitcher Kayla Orozco.
The Pioneers, who carved out a 17-6-1 record in all games and a 10-2 record in the Prep League, are young with just one senior, outfielder Sofia Yakushi.
Manny Travieso is the coach and he saw his squad lose in the Division V first round 7-2 to Norwalk.
Seven juniors dot the lineup and include pitcher/first baseman Grace Workman, who transferred from Burbank High, second baseman/catcher/outfielder Rachel Handy, utility Malia Rode, pitcher/third baseman/first baseman Olyvia Rutter, shortstop/center fielder Breanna Pelaez, outfielder Isabella Barton and catcher/third baseman/shortstop Belen Benito.
There are four sophomores on the team and are catcher/outfielder Delailah Lopez, second baseman/shortstop, Gloria Galindo, second baseman/outfielder Mia Allinson and first baseman/pitcher Valentina Clemons.
The lone first-year player for the Pioneers is first baseman Ariana Benito.
Though the season has already begun, it’s going to be a close race as all three local teams have a chance to have a very productive nonleague campaign and a grand league schedule.
After that, the ultimate prize awaits which is chasing down a CIF title, something not out of the question based on their respective pitching, hitting, leadership and skill.