By Rick Assad
It’s almost spring and that means baseball is here and there are bright futures ahead for the Burbank High and Burroughs teams.
The Bulldogs are coming off a highly productive season and so are the Bears. Both squads qualified for the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs, and each played two games.
“It’s great to be back! We are in a position to be successful and anticipate a season of challenges in terms of staying healthy,” longtime Bulldogs coach Bob Hart said. “A full roster will go a long way towards reaching our goals.”
Hart believes his club, which consists of 17 players, has what it takes to challenge for the Pacific League banner and make a big splash in the postseason.
“We are always striving to improve all aspects of our team, and most of all we are grateful for our time together as a program,” he said.
Burbank finished with a 13-6 record and posted a 10-4 mark in league. The Bulldogs defeated Sierra Vista 11-3 in the first round of the playoffs but dropped a 4-2 decision to Hemet in the second round.
The Bulldogs will have eight seniors on their roster and includes captain Daniel Neria, captain Jared Cantu, captain Wyatt LaMarsna, Jose Avellaneda, Ben Baptiste, Matthew Benson, Josh DiPietro and David McBride.
These eight will see significant time on the diamond and are the engine that will drive this team.
Neria will pitch and is capable of playing anywhere on the field. No one’s star shined brighter than Neria’s and he expects to have a tremendous final season in a Bulldogs’ uniform.
“The team looks really good this year. We have a lot of potential, and we could possibly be one of the best teams Burbank has ever had. I have full confidence in that,” said Neria, who will attend and play baseball at Cal State University San Marcos. “I’m really excited for the season.”
Cantu is the catcher and will have a significant and steady hand in how well the pitching staff performs.
LaMarsna is capable of playing three infield positions that include second base, shortstop and third base.
Avellaneda will be on the mound and will also see time in the outfield and at first base.
Baptiste will toil in the outfield and has enough raw speed that he can cover at any outfield position.
Benson is a second baseman and will be a key cog in the infield for the Bulldogs.
Tall and lean with lots of power, DiPietro will also see time on the hill and when he’s not, he’ll play first base and center field.
McBride is also part of the pitching staff and when he isn’t, he’ll play in the outfield.
There are nine juniors on the squad, and they include Sattwik Banerjee, who also plays on the boys’ basketball team.
Banerjee is yet another arm that Hart can use. He will also see time at third base and shortstop.
When it comes to being tough, few will surpass Dylan Robinson, who played quarterback on the varsity despite being undersized. Robinson will play shortstop.
Danny Betancourt will play second base, shortstop and will see action as a pitcher.
Jimmy Cafferty will pitch, play first base and will see time in the outfield.
Ben Castillo is versatile and can play the outfield and the infield and is primarily a third baseman.
Adan DePaz is another player that can do almost anything on the diamond. DePaz will see action at second base, shortstop and the outfield.
Daniel Edwards can play the corner positions in the infield and will be effective as a third baseman or first baseman.
Julian Gonzalez has speed and will see time in the outfield, but his best position is center field.
Joe Maslyk is a first baseman and is capable of playing third base and left field.
Seventeen players are on the roster for the Bears, who went 12-12 in all games and 8-6 in league, and they include 11 upperclassmen.
Coach Matt Magallon, who helped guide the Bears to a 5-1 play-in victory over Arroyo and a 5-2 setback versus Malibu in the first round, likes what’s on tap.
“With a majority of the starters returning and after last year with all the distractions on and off the field, the team has grown and is a tight knit unit,” he said. “We have outstanding leaders and it’s a great atmosphere and culture. We are excited for what this year brings.”
One piece that’s missing is senior Aidan Cremarosa, a pitcher/shortstop who transferred to the IMG Academy in Florida and has committed to Fresno State.
Still, the Bears will be strong and have available first baseman Andrew Chapman, pitcher Brayden Sibley-Ackerman, catcher Mason Medina, third baseman Bailey Ewan, pitcher Gunnar Nichols, pitcher Devan McGivern, pitcher Vasista Dhyasani, infielder/infielder Christian Romero, first baseman/pitcher Lim Cabellos, catcher Ryan Meza and outfielder Jack Benton.
“Captain and Batman to Nate [his brother]. He is a leader on and off the field and is an extremely tough competitor,” said Magallon of Andrew Chapman. “We are excited to have him back at first base again this year. Looking forward for him have a great season.”
Magallon is also impressed with Sibley-Ackerman.
“Brayden is a Division I commit that is going to be attending Norfolk University next year,” he said. “He is a tall left-hander that will help us compete during the year and in the playoffs.”
Medina is a key piece of the puzzle because he’s behind the plate and will handle the pitchers.
“Mason’s a three-time varsity captain that embodies the culture and leadership of our program,” Magallon said. “An all-league team member last year, we will go as far as Mason takes us. He’s the captain of the ship and we are so lucky to have him leading us again this season.”
Ewan transferred from a private Foothill-area school, and Magallon is happy to have him. “Bailey is a transfer from St. Francis and has come into a tight-knit team and has seamlessly fit in a much-needed piece of our team’s puzzle,” he said. “We are excited to have him.”
Magallon is extremely high on Nichols. “This fall Gunnar has been at the top of our rotation,” he said. “He has poise, and it seems that he’s always in control of his emotions. He’s a guy that we will rely on to make our run for a league championship.”
Magallon also likes what McGivern brings to the table. “Devan has been a three-year varsity player that is ready to pitch in any role,” he said. “He is a competitor that has committed to Morningside University next year. We are excited to have Devan on the staff again this year and know that he will play many roles for us this year, either as a closer/starter or reliever. He is that talented.”
Magallon spoke about junior Jarell Bijasa. “Jarell is going to be roaming center field this season and most likely hitting at the top of the lineup,” he said. “He’s an outstanding leader in the outfield.”
Five players are juniors, and they are pitcher/outfielder/infielder Nick Forrest, Bijasa, middle infielder Steven Suarez, outfielder/pitcher Sebastian Zamora and pitcher/infielder Zach Freck.
“Nick was a Pacific League all-leaguer and is back this year and looking to help guide the team in all aspects,” Magallon said. “He is someone that players trust on the mound and feel that when he is up there, we have a pretty good chance to compete for a win.”
There is one sophomore and that is middle infielder Nate Chapman, and he could be special according to Magallon.
“Nate is Robin in the dynamic Chapman brother duo, but he is a workhorse that is on full-tilt every minute on the field,” he said. “He is a team leader that stirs the drink for the Burroughs offense.”