By Rick Assad
Special to MyBurbank
For Burbank High and Burroughs the race to the Pacific League girls’ softball title doesn’t begin until March 31 when the visiting Bulldogs take on Glendale, while the Indians face Pasadena. And though Burbank is the favorite to claim the banner, Burroughs will have something to say about the matter.
The Bulldogs are coming off a season in which they went 24-4, 14-0 and first place in league for the second consecutive campaign, and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division III second round where they lost to Palos Verdes, 5-2.
The Indians were 19-7, and 11-3 in league for second place, dropped a 6-3 decision to Bishop Amat in the opening round, and led the division in scoring with 264 runs.
“We have that target on our back,” said second-year Burbank coach Mike Delaney, who also skippered Village Christian’s program for nine years. “Championships are made when the stands are empty. These girls are focused on a goal, and that’s to play our best at the end of the year. We need to play at our best level.”
Delaney feels the squad will live up to the lofty expectations.
“Our team is extremely competitive,” he said. “They hate to lose to each other in scrimmages. I told them don’t worry about what other teams are doing. The second round is nice. I’m not taking away from anyone else, but we set our goal to win the CIF championship game.”
Burroughs feels equally justified in thinking it has a legitimate claim to the banner given that the Indians have secured three of the last five.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for Burbank,” Burroughs fifth-year coach Doug Nicol said. “I love our team. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge. It’s good for the city of Burbank. We still believe we are the team that’s going to work the hardest. We feel good about our chances. We think we’re going to be right there.”
On paper the Bulldogs, who owned a 24-game winning streak last season, have an advantage over the field because of pitcher Caitlyn Brooks, who powered her way to a 21-4 record and a 1.18 earned-run average.
Brooks, a senior right-handed hurler who will be attending the University of Notre Dame, struck out 258 and walked 22 in 160 innings.
Brooks’ off-the-field honors included league Player of the Year, along with being named to the prestigious National Fast-Pitch Coaches Association All-American third team.
“I’ve challenged her to step up this year,” Delaney said. “I know she can be that Division I pitcher. She’s very poised and always ready for a new challenge.”
Brooks isn’t just a decorated hurler, but a highly-productive hitter who batted .513, swatted a club-best five home runs with 25 walks, and had a team-high 42 runs batted in.
“Caitlyn is a phenomenal hitter,” Delaney noted. “In this day and age, it’s rare to find a humble athlete who works hard. Caitlyn is just that.”
Backing Brooks in the circle will be senior Hanna Moulton, who tossed 20 innings and posted a 1.47 ERA with 21 strikeouts and five walks.
“Hanna’s in a real tough spot because Caitlyn is the No. 1 pitcher,” Delaney pointed out. “She doesn’t get a lot of chances to pitch, but when she does, she does well. She works hard at pitching and can also play second base.”
Brooks and Moulton are supported by a stellar infield that includes junior first baseman Julia Duarte, who has committed to the University of Pennsylvania.
Duarte, who played in 28 games, made all-league first team, batted .374 and blasted four home runs with 34 RBIs.
“She’s a really good kid and a very good player,” Delaney said. “Julia understands situations and knows all aspects of the game.”
To Duarte’s right will be junior second baseman Cailey Stevenson, who will bat leadoff, finished with a .296 average and was selected to the second team all-league.
“We expect a breakout year from Cailey,” Delaney offered. “She’s very aggressive, has really improved and has lots of range.”
Junior Sabrina Steward will play shortstop. “Sabrina’s a phenomenal athlete and has lots of talent. She works hard at shortstop,” Delaney said.
At the plate, Steward, a transfer from Burroughs, has enormous potential. “She played in only 16 games and batted .282,” Delaney said. “She had limited at-bats, but is going to have a big year.”
Senior Lily Winn is the third baseman, was highly decorated, garnering NFCA All-Regional first team, and made all-league first team.
“Lily batted .535, drove in 34 runs and had three home runs,” Delaney said. “In 98 plate appearances, she didn’t strike out even once and led us with 12 stolen bases.”
Senior Bridgette Pisa is the catcher, played in 28 games and made all-league first team along with NFCA All-Regional first team.
“Bridgette batted .410 and is smart behind the plate,” Delaney said. “She’s the emotional leader.”
Senior Jazmin Orozco will play left field and is the backup catcher. “Jazmin is good enough to be the starting catcher on most teams,” Delaney said. “She has a good eye at the plate, batted .360, and was an all-area honorable mention.”
Senior Allyson Capili is the center fielder, but was limited to five games due to injury. “Allyson’s extremely fast and is a lefty slapper. She’ll bat No. 2 or No. 9.”
Junior Isabelle Frias will patrol right field and finished with a .313 batting average. “She has a lot of potential and is a fundamentally smart player,” Delaney said.
Senior Mandy DeLeon, who hit .312, will battle Steward for the shortstop position. “She works real hard and does a good job,” Delaney said.
Junior Amber Ingram is an outfielder who primarily plays right field. “Amber’s a phenomenal player who has good bat speed, is a solid outfielder and a good base runner,” Delaney said.
Freshman Anysia Gonzalez rounds out the squad and will be a utility player. “Anysia is the only freshman on the team and that can be tough, but she’s very mature. She’s played in our scrimmages and done well. She’s very talented and there’s a tremendous upside.”
The Indians have their own power keg in senior third baseman Michelle Santiago, who will see time as a catcher, has signed with Saint Peter’s College in New Jersey, and was tabbed first team all-league three times.
“Michelle batted .531 and has struck out only once in her career as a freshman,” Nicol said. “She’s one of the five best hitters in our region. She’s focused and determined. If the pitcher makes a mistake, she’ll hit it.”
Junior Kaitlin Okimoto is a three-year starter who batted .485, was second on the club with 27 RBIs, selected second team all-league, and will bat No. 3, No. 4 or No. 5 in the lineup.
Senior first baseman Tori Talavera, who signed with Colorado State in Pueblo, is another key.
“Tori batted .298 and is a three-year varsity player and a two-year starter,” Nicol said. “I think she’s going to have a good year and has made a lot of improvement.”
Sophomore Lauren Lopez will play second base and is an all-around solid performer. “Lauren can hit, play defense, will get down and dirty and has a great motor,” Nicol noted.
Junior Brianna Devellano is the catcher and had a .300 batting average in her initial stint at the varsity level.
“Brianna played 16 games as a catcher,” Nicol said. “She played travel ball so she has lots of experience.”
Burroughs has a pair of freshmen leading the pitching brigade, and they are power-hurler Presley Miraglia, who has played in 25 scrimmages and travel ball.
“We feel like she’s a sophomore because of all this experience,” Nicol said. “She’s a quality kid, has very good skills and a bright future.”
Nicol envisions a rosy career for Miraglia, who can play second base. “She’s up to the challenge, but she isn’t going to do it alone,” Nicol said. “The girls are going to support her. I love what Presley brings to the table. I wouldn’t trade her for any pitcher in the league. I have a lot of faith in her.”
Hannah Talavera, who can play center field, is the other first-year pitcher. “Hannah does not have the same power that Presley does, so she’s going to have to hit her spots,” Nicol said.
Senior D.J. Santos is the left fielder. “D.J. batted .417 and stole eight bases in eight attempts,” Nicol said. “We expect her to double that and she has a good short game.”
Senior Delaney Nicol will patrol center field, and just concluded her stint as the point guard on the basketball team which lost in the CIF semifinals.
“Delaney is a four-year varsity player and a three-year starter,” Nicol said of his daughter. “She’s good at tracking the ball and is a gap-hitter who batted .342.”
Nicol, a leadoff hitter who signed with Hamilton College in New York, was named honorable mention as a junior, and was chosen first team all-league as a sophomore. She hasn’t committed an error in her varsity career.
Senior Kailanie Oasay is the right fielder and batted .304. “She’s a tough-luck kid,” Nicol said. “She blew out her knee and shoulder. We’re trying to keep her healthy. Along with D.J., Delaney and Kaitlin, she’s one of the fastest runners on the team.”
Junior Daisy Rodriguez played first base on the junior varsity, has a great work ethic, and will see action at first base.
Sophomore Destiny Velazquez, who hit .375, will divide her time behind the plate and third base.
Sophomore Amanda Flores participated in 19 games, batted .308 and played second base and shortstop.
Sophomore Brianna Johnson was a member of the JV where she toiled at third base, shortstop and catcher.
Senior outfielder Maile Tanigawa suffered severe knee injuries during her junior and sophomore campaigns.
“Maile shows a great deal of heart and dedication,” Nicol said. “She could have quit a long time ago, but she’s shown what type of person she is.”
Senior Tara Seavey is a reserve outfielder who is willing to doing whatever the coaching staff asks. “Tara has been a surprise for us,” Nicol said. “She’s a captain, a great kid, has a great work ethic and never quits.”
Junior Sophia Odio is a backup outfielder. “She’s working hard and adjusting to the speed of the varsity,” Nicol said.
Two teams. Two journeys. The best is yet to come. Stay tuned.