By Rick Assad
With solid and talented lineups, the Burroughs High and Burbank softball teams are shooting for the moon, and each has good reason to be optimistic.
“I really like this team. We have been working extremely hard since September and we are excited to get the season started and see how we do,” Burroughs coach Doug Nicol said. “The sky’s the limit for this team. We have good and deep pitching, a solid hitting team, and also play good defense. It’s going to be fun to watch this team grow as the season progresses.”
Nicol likes the balance on this year’s squad. “We have a great mixture of veteran leadership and some talented young players,” he said. “We have also developed a strong culture within our program and the girls really get along and enjoy playing with each other.”
Nicol went on: “As long as we keep pulling the rope in the same direction, we have the potential to do some special things this year,” he said.
Last season the Bears went 11-10 overall and finished with a 10-4 mark in the Pacific League for third place.
There are several teams that can claim the league banner, including the Bears, who lost to Temple City 5-4 in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs.
“As for the Pacific League, you have to make Arcadia the league favorite. Also, Burbank and Crescenta Valley are both very talented and have a chance as well,” Nicol said. “Between us and those teams, the league is strong, and it really is anyone’s league to win this year.”
Nicol added: “But the edge has to go to Arcadia at the beginning because of the experience they have returning,” he noted. “But I wouldn’t count out any one of those other teams, including us, in what should be an exciting softball season in the Pacific League.”
Twelve players comprise the Bears’ team and it includes six seniors. They are shortstop/pitcher Kelsey Acosta.
“Kelsey was first-team Pacific League last year,” Nicol said. “Super consistent and a very good pitcher. She was our number one pitcher and our number one this year. She’s not overpowering but doesn’t walk many batters and pitches with great movement and hits her spots. One of the best pitchers in the entire area. She will also play a lot of shortstop when not pitching.”
Another upperclassman is Isabella Scozzola, who will play first base, catcher and the outfield.
“She’s still deciding where she is going to commit. Looking at several East Coast schools as well as a couple in Oregon,” Nicol said. “She will start at first base and is a returning first team Pacific League player last year. She’s a strong hitter in the middle of our lineup. Also, very good with the glove.”
Gigi Garcia is an outfielder and a middle infielder. “She’s a returning first-team Pacific League player last year and will bat cleanup and play center field this year, moving over from right field, where she played last year,” Nicol said. “Very strong player who is our emotional leader. She is tough as nails and will be one of our best hitters this year. We are counting on her.”
The other upperclassmen are middle infielder/outfielder Arley Pena, first baseman/third baseman Kiley Christopher and first baseman/outfielder Kaynan Chrysikos.
“Kiley will start at third base as well as see time as a DP [designated player]. Starting third base last year and we are expecting big things for this year,” Nicol said. “She’s very strong defensively as well as a strong hitter. Will help anchor our lineup.”
Three juniors populate the squad, and they are catcher/third baseman Rachel Little, first baseman/outfielder/pitcher Stevie Dabbadie and third baseman/outfielder Laurel Piper.
“Stevie is one of the most improved players in the league last year,” Nicol said “She will be our number two pitcher as well as play some first base and will be a DP as well. She’s one of the best power hitters in the Pacific League, but also a power pitcher who will see a lot of time in the circle pitching.”
“Rachel is a returning Pacific League honorable mention selection,” Nicol said. “One of the best and most talented catchers in the Pacific League. She will hit at the top of the lineup and is a very smart hitter, but also a very strong defensive catcher who is almost impossible to steal against.”
Rounding out the squad are four sophomores, and they include outfielder Mia Ramirez, catcher/third baseman Phoebe Spangler, shortstop/second baseman Gizelle Rangsiyawong and Tawnie Ohrt.
“Gizelle is a transfer from North Hollywood High and will be our starting shortstop,” Nicol said. “A smooth fielding middle infielder, she might also play some second base. A strong hitter who is also fast on the bases and should steal her share of bases.”
Nicol also addressed the outfield candidates, and they are Ramirez, Piper, Pena, Ohrt and Chrysikos.
“All of these players are competing in the outfield. All of them are very talented and working hard to try and win a spot in the starting lineup,” Nicol said.
Nicol spoke about Spangler. “Phoebe did great as a freshman on the varsity last year. She will play a utility role, mainly at catcher and third base,” he said. ” A very strong hitter and a total team player who is versatile and can play many different positions.”
The Bulldogs also went 11-10 overall, went 9-5 for fourth place in league, have 13 members on the team and are led by senior second baseman Elizabeth Zamora.
“Elizabeth is the captain of our team,” Burbank coach Melissa Sanchez said. “Elizabeth is looking to pick up where she left off last year. She is not only a great softball player but an outstanding leader and teammate.”
Another important cog is junior shortstop Samantha Buckley. “Samantha is a phenomenal softball player that shows her potential on the field,” Sanchez said. “She plays shortstop and is one of our power hitters. Samantha brings a spark to our team that fires everybody up.”
Another key contributor is sophomore outfielder Belinda Lujano. “Belinda is a triple threat with her speed, bat, and defense,” Sanchez said. “She plays all-out softball and has a competitive drive that her teammates feed off of.”
Not to be overlooked is freshman pitcher Maddison Kellogg. “Maddison is a strong pitcher with a competitive personality,” Sanchez explained. “She thrives off of pressure situations when she is on the mound. She might be a freshman, but she pitches like a veteran pitcher. Maddison will have a heavy workload this season.”
The Bulldogs advanced to the Division V second round of the playoffs a season ago as they beat Coast Union and then lost to Santa Clara 7-3 in the second round.
The rest of the squad includes senior outfielder Hannah Zacariaz, senior first baseman Alexis Rosales, junior catcher Shelby Cribbs, junior outfielder Delilah Alvarado, junior outfielder Emma Mendoza, junior first baseman Sasha Quintanar, sophomore outfielder Kara Valencia, sophomore third baseman Eliza Bowren and sophomore pitcher Grace Workman.
The Bulldogs aren’t going to rely on just one player, but rather the entire roster, which is a strength.
“This team is not just about one or two players. This team is a group of 13 players that come together to compete,” Sanchez said. “They understand what it is to be a winning caliber team.”
Sanchez went on: “Each girl is a strong piece to our puzzle. These girls have been putting in hard work in the classroom, weight room, and softball field since week one of school,” she said. “All of their hard work will pay off this season. This isn’t a team anyone should sleep on.”