MAN ON A MISSION

By On May 9, 2012

BURBANK HIGH — Daniel Starkand will take the mound Friday evening trying to help the Bulldogs do something they haven’t done in more than 20 years — earn a share of a league championship.

Burbank baseball needs to beat Burroughs and needs help from Arcadia, who is also 10-3 in Pacific League play, to earn a three-way share of the league title along with the Apaches and Crescenta Valley. Arcadia plays its rival, the first place Falcons, at Glendale College while the Bulldogs hosts Burroughs.

Daniel Starkand

He is a “man on a mission,” “the ace up the sleeve of Burbank’s coaching staff,” the senior hoping to go out on a high note. He is all that, and more. He is quiet, but confident and he is the biggest reason — both figuratively and literally — that Burbank may earn a piece of the Pacific League with a win May 11.

This seemed unlikely even a week ago when the Apaches were 10-0 an looking to extend a league win streak to 42 games. Starkand and Burbank shut them out, 3-0 on their own field in what he called “the highlight of his season to date” — a pretty big statement  considering the 6-foot-3 senior lefty also has a shutout of the rival Indians on his resume this season, a season in which he has been untouchable.

The win against Arcadia seemed like the icing on the cake of what has been a stellar season for Starkand — 5-2 with a 0.41 ERA in 51 innings pitched — but it figured to have little impact on the league picture. However, when Pasadena followed suit by beating Arcadia on Friday, May 4 and when Burroughs upset the Apaches on Tuesday everything changed.

Burbank — who placed no better than fifth in the Foothill League between 1992 and 2005 and who has placed no better than third since coming into the Pacific League in 2006 — has a chance to finish in a crowded but coveted tie for first.

“To be honest, when we lost for the second time to CV I thought we were out of it,” Starkand admits. “But now that we have caught a few breaks I just want to capitalize and win (league).”

Things started slowly for Burbank this season when it lost its first three games. Additionally, Starkand found himself the hard luck loser in close pitching duels like the 2-1 loss to Arcadia on April 10.

“It was frustrating because I knew what this team was capable of,” he said.

Things turned for Burbank and for Starkand, something he attributes to a stellar coaching staff and a cohesive team.

“Coach (Bob) Hart has put together a staff with Coach (Craig) Sherwood, Coach (Tommy) Perez, and Coach (Tony) Sandoval” he says, “And a lot of things have changed sooner than I expected.”

Starkand was one of only two players left on the varsity roster from 2009-2010 along with  junior Dylan Mersola. He acknowledges thinking that summer he might be a veteran on a rebuilding project. However, he began to feel differently after a successful summer and fall of scrimmages this past year.

“Things just felt a little different, and I still thought they were different after an 0-3 start,” he said.

Burbank has since won 13 of 18, largely behind Starkand’s work. Win, lose or draw he should get consideration for the league’s “Player of the Year” award to be voted on by coaches in the league Monday, May 14.

And although he will be 100% focused on the task at hand — becoming the first Bulldogs’ pitcher to beat Burroughs twice in one season since Romero Alvarez accomplished the feat in 1995 — he admits he will be hoping for updates of the Falcons’-Apaches’ contest given what is at stake.

It shouldn’t be too hard as his future roommate at Chapman University, Erik Trask, will have the ball for Arcadia in what is an ironic twist of fate. Starkand committed to Chapman last month after being impressed during a visit. He also had interest from the University of La Verne, Westmont, and Occidental College even though he was a relative unknown prior to this season.

The market is always there for a tall lefty with good grades. That said, Starkand’s game has gone to the next level this season. He added a slider to his arsenal a pitch he shyly acknowledged “has been dominant.”

His coach, Bob Hart, says Starkand is the product of hard work and although not overpowering he is effective every time he takes the mound.

“Definite worker, good IQ for the game, and a good kid,” Hart said. “And the cliché for lefties are that they are crafty — Daniel is in the sense that he can beat you with a couple of pitches, throws to his spots and hits corners well.”

If hitting is timing, pitching is disrupting timing. Starkand has mastered the latter. And,  unfortunately for Burroughs Starkand’s time appears to be now.