By Rick Assad
With a bright sun shining down on Tuesday’s Pacific League baseball game between host Burbank High and Glendale, the Bulldogs proved resilient and steady after employing a pair of two-run innings that helped capture a 5-2 decision.
The Nitros (5-6 and 2-4 in league) scored a solo run in the first and Burbank evened it at 1-1 in the fourth, but a two-run fifth and sixth frame followed and it provided more than enough offense.
Senior Ian Schenk controlled most of the game from the pitcher’s mound as the left-hander worked four effective innings with two hits surrendered, while striking out three, walking two and hitting one batter.
Schenk escaped an explosive initial inning after the Bulldogs (9-1 and 7-0 in league) turned in a slick triple play.
Sophomore Javier Solis lined out to Schenk, who gunned the ball to junior third baseman Wyatt LaMarsna, who then rifled the ball to senior shortstop Ryan King for the third out.
“The triple play was huge. I really believe without it the momentum wouldn’t be on our side,” Schenk said.
At the plate, Schenk, a left-handed hitter, singled twice, while King added two singles as did junior second baseman Daniel Neria, senior Jaden Rez and junior center fielder Joshua DiPietro.
“When I was up at the plate, I was looking for the fastball and adjusting to the pitch,” Neria explained. “I felt really good at the plate. The pitches that I was getting were away, so I had to go with the pitch and hit it the other way.”
Longtime Burbank coach Bob Hart has seen steady progress from his squad and believes they will get even better.
“Well, triple plays help,” he said. “Solid pitching, some timely hits and staying the course. Our situational hitting has gotten better and better. Consequently we are able to manufacture when the offense is not full tilt.”
On the afternoon, the surging Bulldogs outhit the much-improved Nitros, 11-4.
Burbank seized command 3-1 in the fifth inning when King, who singled to left field with one out, stole second base and scored on Rez’s single to center field.
Rez took second base on the throw and swiped third base before crossing the plate after Neria, who was intentionally walked, was caught in a rundown, but ultimately stole second base.
King is an integral part of the team’s success. “I think it showed a lot about our team,” said King of the early hole the Bulldogs were in. “Our pitching struggled in the first inning, but we bounced back and were able to get it under control.”
King then addressed the hitting. “Our hitting was really good and if we keep hitting like that we’ll be in every game this year,” he said. “We just need to take it one game at a time and play our best every game.”
In the bottom of the sixth, seven batters made their way to the plate and saw DiPietro reach safely on an infield hit, move to second base on a walk to junior Jose Avellaneda, and advance to third base on a sacrifice bunt from junior Jared Cantu.
Avellaneda, who was credited with the win after pitching two and two-third innings while fanning three, walking two and allowing one hit, also scored on Schenk’s single to right field.
“My main focus is to hit something hard up the middle and not do too much,” Schenk said of his at-bats. “I usually stick to that approach every game.”
The Bulldogs tied the game at 1-1 in the fourth inning when Rez doubled off the fence in center field and then took third base on a wild pitch.
Neria’s base hit to right field with none out plated Rez.
LaMarsna also singled to left field in the fourth.
Glendale came out and scored a run in the first frame as freshman Matthew Vega singled to right field as junior Danny Villela, who walked to leadoff the inning, crossed the plate.
“I think it’s a big credit to my staff. Our staff is largely made up of alumni who played Glendale High School baseball, who experienced some of the success that it had in the 70s and 90s, respectively. We have a group, including myself, being a teacher on campus I think is a big help as well,” Glendale coach Marcus Whithorne said.
The goal is fairly simple. “The big thing that we’ve been striving for is to instill that continuity. We want to be a competitive team year after year,” Whithorne said. “We want to be a team that isn’t overlooked in the Pacific League schedule.”
Whithorne’s staff includes David Addis, Frank Taormina and Gabe Chavez.
The Nitros edged closer after adding a run in the seventh inning off King, who came in and picked up the save.
Vega’s infield single scored sophomore Erik Chavez, who reached base on a force out, but King fanned Solis swinging to end the game.