By Dick Dornan
MyBurbank Sports Editor
Add another exciting chapter to one of high school’s best rivalries. Wednesday night’s Burbank vs. Burroughs softball showdown at McCambridge Park had plenty of drama and intensity as the two teams battled pitch for pitch in their final regular season game.
After the dust had finally settled, Burbank outlasted Burroughs, 5-4, in nine innings to complete a perfect 14-0 Pacific League season. The Bulldogs, who clinched their second consecutive outright league title on Tuesday in a 2-0 win against Glendale, won their 28th straight game in league play.
“The accomplishment of going undefeated two times in a row in league is a testament to the athletes that these girls are,” Burbank first-year coach Mike Delaney said. “It’s not about coaching. It’s about being a competitor wanting to win and these girls do it every single day.”
Burbank’s last league loss, you ask? If you guessed Burroughs, you are exactly right.
The Indians knocked off the Bulldogs, 2-1, back on May 10, 2012. That loss came during a stretch when Burroughs won three straight league titles. Now it’s Burbank who will carry the streak into 2015.
Last night’s tilt was a game that nobody deserved to lose but an opportunity for somebody to win. Burbank’s Lily Winn came through when she drove a 1-1 pitch up the middle and into centerfield scoring Bridgette Pisa (2 for 5, two runs scored) that set off a wild celebration at home plate.
“I was kind of nervous going up there but I knew what I had to do. Everything came together and I was definitely prepared,” Winn said. “It was exciting. It was everything I wanted. Everything we’ve been waiting for all season.”
Winn’s game-winning hit was the first lead for Burbank (23-3) in the entire contest. The Bulldogs rallied from an early 3-0 deficit after three innings and 4-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth.
A three-run fifth inning tied the game at four apiece. The two crosstown rivals then provided the fans with some free softball until the deciding run was scored in the bottom of the ninth.
“In a way I’m thankful we had a game like that. I kept challenging them and telling them that they have the heart of a champion,” said Delaney. “At the end there, nobody doubted that we would get the base hit. Everybody wanted to be the last at bat.”
It was a difficult pill to swallow for Burroughs coach Doug Nicol. His team was well-prepared and it showed in the early innings as the Indians hit Bulldog star pitcher Caitlyn Brooks with relative ease.
The Indians tallied 11 hits against Brooks including eight in the first four frames. Burroughs jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Cheyenne Steward (2 for 5, three RBI’s) singled in home Sidney Ortega (4 for 5, four runs scored) who had tripled.
Steward came through again with a two-run single in the third that scored Michelle Santiago (2 for 4) and Ortega.
After the teams traded runs, Burbank rallied in the fifth. A single and three walks cut the deficit to 4-2. With one out and the bases loaded, Winn (2 for 5, three RBI’s) smacked a single to left-center tying the game.
“It was a great game. Cheyenne pitched great. The girls hit great,” Nicol said. “We did everything we needed to do to win.
“We just gave them a little too much in the fifth. We got away from what we were focusing on. That was the difference in the game. How can you not be proud of your team after an effort like that? We took it to them. Nine innings of great softball. Two quality teams.”
Both teams exchanged missed opportunities to go ahead or end the game.
With runners on first and second and nobody out, Steward (8.1 innings, eight hits, four earned runs, seven strikeouts) retired three straight Bulldog batters to end the seventh.
In the ninth inning, Steward reached base on an error and Kaitlin Okimoto (2 for 5) followed with a double. But Brooks (9 innings, 11 hits, two earned runs, one walk, 14 K’s) buckled down to strike out the next three batters to end the threat and set up the dramatic finish.
Pisa singled, moved to second on a walk, on to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Winn’s seeing-eye single.
“I couldn’t be more proud of every person on the team,” said Kaitlin Brooks, the lone senior on the Burbank roster who was 2 for 4. “Everyone pulled their part. There was so much heart in this game and we came through.”
“I’m honored to be a part of what they are doing,” Delaney added. “They come out and work hard every single day. I couldn’t ask for more. They are a special group and it couldn’t be a better team for my first year here.”
It marked Burbank’s 21st consecutive win. The top-ranked Bulldogs now move on to the CIF Division III playoffs likely as the No. 1 seed. Pairings will be announced Saturday afternoon.
If Burroughs (19-6-1, 11-3) plays like they did Wednesday night, a deep run by the Indians is possible. Maybe even another battle against Burbank is on the horizon.
“We scored the most runs in CIF this year in division three. The most runs of anybody. So we know we can hit,” Nicol said. “It’s just those little innings where we kind of fall apart. We made a few mistakes in execution and if we clean them up in practice, we will be fine for the CIF playoffs.”