In a game where emerging young players were getting plenty of attention in the build-up, it was two seniors who stepped-up and delivered late heroics for Burroughs Thursday night against crosstown rival Burbank High.
Caitlin Loera squeezed home teammate Sidney Ortega on a 0-1 pitch and Haley Schulman threw a complete game on a night where she didn’t have her best stuff to spark the Indians to a thrilling 4-3 win over the Bulldogs.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Loera executed a perfect bunt towards first base which Burbank pitcher Caitlyn Brooks got to but had no shot at cutting down Ortega at the plate. The pitch was just inches off the ground and far from ideal, but Loera delivered to the delight of hundreds of Burroughs fans on a perfect Spring night at Olive Park.
“I’m just very happy for her, to be able to deliver like that in the pressure in her final home game against Burbank,” Burroughs coach Doug Nicol said. “I don’t think people realize how hard that is to do in that kind of moment.”
Loera had flied out deep to left in the fifth inning, stranding a pair of runners in scoring position and allowing Burbank to take a 3-2 lead into the sixth. “I thought she made good contact, just got under it a bit there,” Nicol said.
Good pitchers win when they have their best stuff. Great pitchers win on the days where their stuff is only decent. Schulman moved into the elite category in her coach’s eyes on a night where she was only ordinary.
Schulman battled butterflies, bad breaks and a night where her command was off and velocity down and emerged victorious leaving Burbank players to wonder if they will ever get the best of the senior or the Indians — who have won seven straight against Burbank.
“Just as we have played better as a team, Haley has been better,” Nicol said. “But that is the thing, she showed so much heart and determination I was very proud. In this game you don’t have it every night and you still have to get it done — she did it.”
Burbank took a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning when Katie Hooper lined a pitch into right field on a hit and run. The ball kicked away from right fielder Megan McKenna allowing a run to score and Hooper to reach third.
The Bulldogs led 3-1 moments later when Laina Do laid down a bunt and the Schulman attempted to get Hooper at the plate.
“Mistake on our part, obviously with two outs we should have thrown her out at first,” Nicol said. “We just did not make it easy on ourselves that inning.”
Burroughs had led 1-0 after two innings when McKenna singled Aimee Rodriguez home. Rondriguez had led off the inning with a single.
The Indians responded to the Bulldogs’ runs in the fifth inning by loading the bases in the bottom half of the inning. They scored one on a Michelle Santiago comebacker to Brooks, who got the lead runner at home, but the ensuing throw to first kicked off Santiago and out of play. Nicol argued that a second run should have been brought in on the play, but the umpire crew kept runners at second and third.
Burbank held the lead into the seventh, when the Indians first got even, 3-3, after Santiago singled home Brice Edrington. With one out, Edrington had dribbled a ball towards first but reached second after she had collided with Crystal Diaz on a race to first and the ball flew out of her glove and out of play. Ally Grimaldo walked and was replaced by Ortega. Santiago singled home Edrington and Ortega moved to third base.
Santiago stole second base on the first pitch to Loera, and Ortega was squeezed home on the very next pitch.
“We didn’t want to take a chance of going down in the count 0-2, so we did it right after the steal,” Nicol said. “I think we surprised them after not even showing bunt on the first pitch.”
Burroughs continues its dominance of Burbank and the Pacific League. It is in firm control with a 14-1 overall record and a 6-0 league mark. Burbank had its win streak snapped at 12 games and falls to 12-2 overall and 5-1 in league. The problem for Burbank is that no one — the Bulldogs included — seem able to beat the Indians in the Pacific.
The two teams will conclude the season on May 10 at McCambridge Park. Assuming both teams winout on their schedule, the Bulldogs can share the league title with the Indians by beating them in the finale.