By Dick Dornan
MyBurbank Sports Editor
Ricky Perez couldn’t have scripted it any better. Playing against his former school and many of his closest friends, Perez put on quite a show. All he did was hit two home runs, knock in four RBI’s and record a save in Burbank’s 8-6 victory against Burroughs that moved the Bulldogs into a first place tie atop the Pacific League standings with the Indians.
“This is everything. That’s what I’ve been waiting for this whole season. I know we can win a league championship and that’s the team we needed to get past,” said Perez, who transferred from Burroughs to Burbank after his freshman year. “We know we have the tools, we know we have the ability. We just need to put it all together.”
Things looked bleak for Burbank at the beginning as Burroughs struck for four runs off Bulldogs ace Angel Villagran in the top of the first inning culminated by a three-run home run from Akira Abderrahman.
“You can’t script that first inning any better,” Burroughs coach Kiel Holmes said after the game.
But in true Burbank fashion, the Bulldogs rallied as they had done previously against Pasadena (trailed 7-0) and Arcadia (trailed 2-0 late in the game). Facing Burroughs southpaw Daniel Barraza, Burbank sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the second inning to roar back.
Harrison Hernandez connected on a solo home run and two batters later Perez deposited his first blast. After back to back errors by the Indians, Chris Okimoto doubled driving in a pair of runs to tie the game. John White singled in Okimoto and the momentum quickly shifted across the diamond as BHS took a 5-4 lead.
“Resiliency will get you a long way in life let alone baseball. It’s a tribute to their character to stick with it,” Burbank coach Bob Hart said about the 4-0 deficit his team faced. “Lot of people pucker up and quit in that situation and our guys took it as a challenge. They refused to lose.”
Burroughs (12-8, 6-1) threatened in the top half of the fourth inning. Brian Pozos and Luis Pereyra singled and advanced to second and third after a ground-out and stolen base. With one out, Bulldogs’ third baseman John White made two strong back to back defensive plays to thwart any potential Indians score. Hard hit balls by Brandon Ortega and Aiden Anding were stopped routinely by the smooth third baseman.
“Before the pitch I thought in my head, ‘alright the ball is coming to me and this is what I am doing.’ Once the ball was hit I kind of blank out and remember that last thought and go about doing it,” said White, one of 15 seniors on the team who celebrated Senior Night prior to the game. “It was a great game. I’m glad both my grandmas were here to spend senior night with me. It was really special and my team came through.”
“That was huge. John (White) made a great play against Aiden (Anding). He barely had time to react. That was a phenomenal job by him playing defense,” Holmes said. “It kept us off the board. That would have given us two more runs to take the lead.”
Burbank (10-7, 6-1) maintained its one-run lead heading into the bottom of the fifth inning when Perez struck again. After an error and a walk that put runners on first and second, Perez drove a 1-0 fastball from Miles Haddad over the centerfield fence for a three-run home run and an 8-4 Bulldogs lead.
“I felt like I needed to help my team out. I’ve been struggling lately and I needed to help my team win,” Perez said humbly.
Perez was the only player on the field to get two hits all night. Both were home runs.
“Ricky is the best ballplayer probably in the entire league in my opinion,” Hart said. “He’s been struggling but it doesn’t take much in this game to turn it around. That might have been his impetus right there.”
The Indians refused to go away when Pozos knocked a two-run home run out of the park to cut the deficit to two. Pozos finished the game with three RBI’s.
Villagran, who also transferred to Burbank from JBHS after his sophomore year, was replaced by Perez in the seventh inning after a valiant effort.
“He’s a warrior. A lot of athletes get into that situation and they want to hide,” Hart said of Villagran after a rough first inning. “He didn’t give into it. He kept battling. Mentally he’s a pretty tough kid.”
In a game that featured five home runs, it was only fitting that Perez finished the job. With two Indians on base, Perez sealed the win by striking out Cameron Rodriguez and earning the save.
“We had stuff go well for us and they had stuff go well for them. Both teams made mistakes that led to runs and ultimately they capitalized just a little bit more than we did,” Holmes said. “We just need to wake up tomorrow and get back to what we have been doing and what got us here. We still have an opportunity. We are still in the driver’s seat.”
Both cross-town rivals control their own destiny. Arcadia defeated Crescenta Valley, 3-2, Friday night that put each of those schools at 5-2 in the Pacific League, a game behind Burbank and Burroughs.
The rematch and possible league title could be at stake on May 10 at Burroughs. Stay tuned.