By Dick Dornan
MyBurbank Sports Editor
Pacific League- here they come!
They ran, they hit, they ran some more, they defended and they pitched their way to a tournament title. Burroughs was strong in all phases as they capped off a memorable run knocking off Lake Oswego of Oregon, 9-2, in the championship game of the “National Division” Coach Bob Invitational Tournament.
With their non-league slate now complete, Burroughs (10-3) turns its attention to the Pacific League which begins on Tuesday at Pasadena. The Indians are primed to contend for a league title in just Coach Craig Sherwood’s second year at the helm.
Crescenta Valley, Arcadia and Burbank will have something to say about that. The fun has just begun.
The Indians dominated the championship game in Phoenix, Arizona, with a balanced attack in each phase of baseball. After rolling the lucky seven against Key West a day earlier, Burroughs hit the trifecta scoring three runs in three different innings (1st, 5th, 6th) against Lake Oswego (4-2) to coast to the convincing victory.
The mad Max duo of Max Haddad (2-for-4, 4 RBIs) and Max DeAmicis (3-for-3, 2 RBIs) combined to go a blistering 5-for-7 with three doubles and six RBIs. Aidan Anding, baseball’s version of the elusive roadrunner, continued his torrid start to the season with three runs scored and three more stolen bases.
Then there is right-handed stalwart pitcher Danny Bustos who won his second game of the tournament tossing five innings and allowing eight hits, no runs, no walks and striking out three. Bustos and Thomas Wilson have become a tough and reliable one-two punch that is backed up by a deep and youthful bullpen.
Burroughs ran the table winning five games in four days outscoring its opponents 44-15 along the way. Each game summary is detailed below.
It should be a great Pacific League season with defending champion Crescenta Valley the odds-on favorite to repeat behind the talented arm of Brian Gadsby. But if the Indians can play as well as they did in Phoenix, a league title is a distinct possibility. Burroughs hasn’t won a league title since 1997 when Sherwood was an assistant on the staff.
The Coach Bob Invitational became a personal playground for JBHS as they brushed aside each state they encountered. Just ask Arizona, Florida and Oregon how they felt to be swept by Burroughs.
Break out the Conchs and let them be heard loud and far across the Arizona desert and into Southern California. Burroughs will be playing for the championship as part of the Coach Bob Invitational Tournament in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Indians will face the Lakers of Lake Oswego, Oregon, for the right to be called tournament champions of the National Division. Game time is set for 3:30 p.m. on Thursday at Boulder Creek High School.
In a game that has defined the Coach Sherwood era, the gritty Indians fought back from a 4-0 deficit, held off a fierce rally, and won a 10-8 semifinal thriller against Key West High School, the No. 8 ranked team in Florida.
“I never see an ounce of quit when I look in the eyes of the players. They embrace adversity and deal with it instead of letting it control them,” said Sherwood, now in his second season as the Indians skipper. “We have 23 players who think and play as one.”
After winning the first three games of the tournament with relative ease, this win was earned with a resilient and courageous effort by the 23-man roster.
Chris Peres turned in an admirable performance on the hill in relief overcoming an illness that plagued him throughout the last few days. Peres went two innings limiting the Conchs to one hit and two runs.
Down 4-0 entering the bottom of the third inning, the Indians pushed a run across courtesy of a Tyler Lewis sacrifice fly.
An inning later, Burroughs (9-3) dug deep and rolled a lucky seven to take an 8-4 lead before a stunned and agitated Key West team.
Anthony Bocanegra led off with a double and nine batters later had an RBI sacrifice fly to add to his impressive tournament resume. In between, the Indians had three consecutive RBI singles by Brennan Brown, Aidan Anding (3-for-4, two runs, two stolen bases, RBI) and Ryan Galan, three walks and a careless Key West error at third base.
Key West self-imploded and the Indians took advantage being patient at the plate inducing a couple of wild pitches while frustration mounted in the opposition’s dugout. The end result was seven runs and three Conch pitchers knocked out of the game.
Key West (12-6) came right back with two runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth. Miami-commit and top prospect Greg Veliz drove a Kyle Nicol changeup over the 360 sign for a two-run home run tying the game 8-8.
Veliz entered the semifinal contest with a .352 batting average, five doubles, three home runs, three triples and 24 RBIs as well as a 96 mph fastball at his disposal.
“That guy was really good,” said Nicol about Veliz who is expected to be a top-five draft pick in June of 2016. “I hung a changeup and he took it yard.”
With the exception of that one fateful pitch, Nicol was very effective in his role striking out six batters in 2 2/3 innings.
Burroughs’ winning rally began in the bottom of the sixth inning when Max Haddad led off with a single. Lewis’ sacrifice bunt followed by a walk from Max DeAmicis put runners on first and second.
Bocanegra singled to load the bases and the Indians cashed in when Jason Whaley walked and pinch-hitter Roy Hirota was hit by a pitch.
The Indians took their 10-8 lead into the seventh behind Nicol and his deceptive and devastating mix of sliders and curveballs.
With runners on at first and second and one out, the junior submarine specialist buckled down and recorded a strikeout and a game ending groundout to send the Indians into the championship game.
“I felt really good. I knew they couldn’t hit off-speed that much so I wanted to come at them with a lot of sliders and kind of work backwards,” said Nicol. “I wanted to keep the ball low and get a ground ball and that is what happened.”
After taking three out of five at the Easton Tournament, the Indians are on the verge of winning all five games in the Coach Bob National Invitational.
Defeating Key West and its star player didn’t faze the hungry and determined group of Indians.
“We never worry about who we are playing or what the score is, we just try to put as many runs on the board as we can every inning,” said Haddad, who had two hits, two runs and a stolen base. “We just play our game and swing the bats.”
The Indians and their host of Burroughs supporters including the infamous Charger crew (no GDI allowed/Circle of Trust) are one win away from a tournament championship before returning home to begin Pacific League action next week.
Next up is Lake Oswego (4-1) who defeated Westview (Oregon) 10-6 in the other semifinal.
“We are really coming together this tournament,” Haddad said. “It’s a really good test for us coming back and going into league.”
“We have come together as a team and I think we have a good chance in the championship,” Nicol added.
First it was Arizona. Then it was Oregon….twice. Neither has been successful in their attempts to take down the red-hot Indians. Now it’s your turn, Florida.
Behind a strong pitching performance by Thomas Wilson in the hot afternoon sun and a combined effort in the cool nightcap from his teammates, the Burroughs Indians swept aside their bordering neighbors from up north with convincing wins against Sheldon (6-0) and Gresham (9-3) of Oregon.
The victories catapulted the Indians into the semifinals of the Coach Bob National Invitational against Key West, Florida, at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Boulder Creek High School in Anthem, AZ.
The Conchs of Key West (12-5) defeated Tualatin of Oregon, 11-7, in the other quarterfinal showdown.
What is a conch you ask? A conch is a shellfish that lives in a large shell and are native to the Florida Keys. You learn something new every day here at myBurbank.
Wilson dominated the Irish of Sheldon (2-1) with a complete game five-hit shutout walking two and striking out eight.
“I had solid defense in back of me,” Wilson said. “I kept the pitch count down and hit my spots. Roy (Hirota) called a good game. It was a good team win.”
The Indians struck for two runs in each of the first two frames highlighted by Tyler Lewis’ two-out single to left field that drove in Aidan Anding and Ryan Galan staking JBHS to a 4-0 lead.
Anthony Bocanegra had three hits including two doubles and Max Haddad and Anding each scored two runs to send Burroughs (8-3) into the tournament semifinals.
“We have a deep pitching staff and we have a really good chance to win,” said Wilson.
In the second game of a day-night doubleheader versus another Oregon school, Burroughs extended its winning streak to four games with a 9-3 victory against the Gophers of Gresham (1-1).
The Indians (7-3) jumped out to a 5-1 lead after three innings and broke the game open with a four-run fifth inning en route to sweeping the Oregon schools.
With runners on second and third and two outs in the top half of the third inning, Noah LaBorico drove a fastball to right field plating two runs and sparking the Indians to a 5-1 advantage.
Max Haddad and Omar Tejeda each had two hits on the evening but it was LaBorico’s clutch hit that garnered the games’ No. 1 highlight.
“I saw a fastball away and I just had to hit it,” LaBorico said. “I helped the team get a couple of RBIs. Whatever helps the team I’m up for it.”
With three easy victories thus far in the tournament, the Indians are primed for a showdown to determine who will advance to the championship game on Thursday. The Indians’ first true challenge of this tournament will come via the East Coast in the southernmost part of Florida….Key West High School.
West meets East. California vs. Florida. Indians and Conchs.
“We are just going out and playing baseball and doing what we have done the past couple of days- get some wins,” said LaBorico.
They awoke at 5 a.m. and boarded their bus bound for Phoenix, Arizona, at 6 a.m. Aside from a pit stop along Highway 10 near Blythe for a quick lunch break, the Burroughs Indians embarked on a seven hour bus ride en route to their opening game against host Boulder Creek as part of the Coach Bob National Invitational Tournament.
Weariness? Fatigue? Sleepwalking here and there? None of the above. The Indians came out swinging to the tune of 15 hits and pounded Boulder Creek, 10-2, to advance to the quarterfinals where they will play Sheldon of Eugene, Oregon, at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.
“I am really proud of how they traveled, got off the bus, and hit line drive after line drive,” Coach Craig Sherwood said. “Our pitching continues to be phenomenal.”
Six different hitters recorded two hits apiece led by Ryan Galan who had a double, two RBIs and a sacrifice bunt. Tyler Lewis had two hits, two runs scored and a sacrifice fly and Aidan Anding added two hits, two runs scored and a stolen base.
“It’s a great feeling to win your first game,” Lewis said. “It really motivates the guys to continue on through the tournament and gives you that drive to keep winning.”
Burroughs (6-3) scored four runs in the second inning courtesy of four hits including doubles by Max Haddad and Galan. The Indians scored three runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth to cement the easy victory.
Danny Bustos continued his stellar and consistent solid pitching throwing three innings and giving up three hits, no runs, no walks and striking out four. He needed only 37 pitches to dispose of the Jaguars before taking a seat to rest for a potential start on Thursday.
“I got some good run support from the team,” said Bustos, who improved his record to 3-1 with a 2.43 era. “It opened up some options for me so I could pitch backwards to people. There was a lot less pressure on me.”
Chris Peres and Shaine Leonard each threw two innings of scoreless baseball for JBHS as the three hurlers combined for zero walks on the afternoon. Boulder Creek (6-11) scored two unearned runs in the fifth inning to spoil the shutout.
The Indians’ offense raised its team batting average 15 percentage points while the pitching staff lowered its earned run average from 2.93 to 2.59.
The team celebrated its opening round victory with a nice dinner at Native Grill & Wings.
Next up for Burroughs is a day-night doubleheader vs. Sheldon and Gresham High School, two teams from Oregon. Thomas Wilson gets the start vs Sheldon with the evening starter yet to be determined.