By Dick Dornan
MyBurbank Sports Editor
The 2015 baseball season ended five weeks ago and Burbank and Burroughs have since turned the page and begun moving forward. Ten All-League players have graduated from the two schools combined leaving a plethora of young talent ready to step up and fill their shoes.
On a mid-summer night’s VIBL matchup at Burbank High Monday night, the Bulldogs prevailed with a 4-1 victory over the Indians behind an outstanding pitching effort from Henry Leake. The junior fired a complete game five-hitter allowing one run, one walk while striking out seven.
“He was pretty lights out. He’s a warrior,” Burbank coach Bob Hart said. “He’s got a competitive edge to him and a pretty good poker face when it’s not going well. That’s a good recipe for success.”
Burroughs scored its lone run in the top of the second inning. Leake shut the door on the Indians the rest of the way as Burbank improved to 4-4 in the Valley Invitational Baseball League.
“I felt really good. I kept the ball low and they didn’t get too many hits. I had really good defensive support,” Leake said. “Winning this game feels really good. It gives us confidence and it is going to propel us.”
The Bulldogs played a solid game of small ball putting the pressure on the Indians defense multiple times.
Trailing 1-0, Jake Zedlar’s safety squeeze brought home Colby Vosgien. Jake Kelley’s single to left field plated Jeremy Chong giving BHS a 2-1 lead after four innings. Ky Tanner’s sacrifice bunt set up Kelley’s RBI single.
Burbank put two more runs on the board in the sixth courtesy of two push bunts up the first base line. First, Kelley drove in Chong with a perfectly placed bunt and moments later Leake put down a push bunt that brought confusion upon the Indians’ infield resulting in Tanner scoring and Leake earning an infield hit.
“We really emphasize that because we don’t have monster 350-foot home run guys,” Hart said of the Bulldog’s offense. “If we buy into that concept, it will be good for us. It puts pressure on the defense and it opens things up.”
Leake’s strong performance was indicative of his progress this summer. Hart has been very happy with what he has seen from Leake as well as the entire Bulldogs’ summer squad.
“Henry Leake has had an incredible summer for us,” Hart said. “He does everything we ask of him. He can pitch, catch and play any position on the infield for us. He’s improved his stock more than anybody.
“Talent wise we are probably not as talented of a group (as last year), but maybe a group that can win more games. They buy in to more of the simplistic team related goals that we have.”
Hart has been focusing on instilling a “competitive edge- bring the fire every inning” type of attitude that he hopes will define the 2016 Burbank team. Last season’s team finished 12-12.
Across the diamond the Indians struggled defensively on their bunt defense as they slipped to 10-6 on the summer. All nine starters graduated from a team that went 24-5 back in May. Despite the heavy losses to graduation, Burroughs has exceeded expectations winning 10 games this summer, tied for most in the VIBL, including significant wins over LA City champion El Camino Real (twice), Kennedy, Hart, Saugus (twice) and Crespi.
“From the first game I’ve seen a lot of improvement. We lost 15 seniors so we are a young team,” senior catcher Tanner Whitlock said. “Learning the speed of the varsity game is what we have been focusing on this summer. We’ve been getting better at that as the summer goes on.”
Whitlock had the game’s only extra base hit, a double in the fifth. Whitlock is making the transition from the infield to catcher, a position he hasn’t played since his freshman year.
“I’m rusty back there but I’m getting used to it and getting better every game,” he said. “I’m learning from every game and every pitch.”
Omar Tejeda led JBHS with two hits. Jesse Galindo threw four innings giving up two hits, two runs, four walks while striking out four.
It was only a summer league game but it provided a glimpse into the future of these two programs. Both teams are happy where they are at heading into July and the VIBL playoffs beginning July 10.
“We have two or three seventh inning wins this summer,” Whitlock said. “We are a scrappy team and we won’t go down without a fight.”
“This is the highest we’ve felt this summer,” said Leake of the win over their crosstown rivals. “I hope we keep playing like this every day and if we do we will be a really good team.”