Tag Archives: Oaklee Spens

Rick’s Sports Corner: OakLee Spens, Burbank High’s On-Field Catalyst

By Rick Assad

Maybe it’s because OakLee Spens batted leadoff and played center field for the Burbank High baseball that he was an on-field leader.

“I knew that I needed to be there day in and day out to help my team,” said Spens, a recent graduate who will play baseball at Lakeland University in Plymouth, Wisconsin, in the NCAA Division III, where he will major in Criminal Justice and Communications. “I was actually one of the captains of the team for my junior and senior year.”

Leadoff hitter, OakLee Spens following through. (Photo courtesy OakLee Spens)

Spens continued: “I knew that leading off a game with a base hit or a walk would get the team rolling early,” he acknowledged. “I knew that everyone counted on me and trusted me to be in that spot to get on base with the most at-bats possible. I viewed my role on the team as a leader and a bar-setter. If I could get going early, it would only help the team.”

Spens was on the varsity for three years, collecting 30 hits, scoring 23 runs, driving in 16 runs with 13 walks and was a premier outfielder.

“I knew the pitchers and coaches had trust in me that whenever a ball was put into the air, that I would be there to catch it,” he said.

Bob Hart, the Burbank coach, thought Spens was the finest at the position.

“OakLee was the ultimate competitor,” he said. “Quiet, but measured. Always someone you could count on to work hard every day. In my opinion, he was the best center fielder in the [Pacific] league.”

Spens was a two-time winner of the Defensive Player of the Year and Utility Player of the Year and was recognized by the California Baseball Coaches Association.

OakLee Spens was a versatile baseball player for the Bulldogs. (Photo courtesy OakLee Spens)

“That’s a tough question because both are fun, especially when you love the game, but I’ll have to go with defense,” he said of whether he preferred being at the plate or in the outfield. “Sitting out in center field or really any position knowing that anything could happen is just exciting. Making diving catches or jumping the fence to catch a ball, or even throwing a guy out at home plate, just gives you a little bit of swagger in your mindset and it can really energize the team.”

Spens helped the Bulldogs reach the CIF Southern Section playoffs in 2019, a first-round loss, and said he was disappointed the season was cut short because of COVID-19.

Spens batted .273, with a .346 on-base percentage, scoring three runs and knocking in four across seven games this season.

“Having my senior year get shut down due to COVID-19 was horrible,” he said. “You grow up with dreams on how you want to live out your season. I went through a lot before the season this past year and to have it cut short due to the pandemic was gut wrenching.”

Spens went on: “I went through a knee surgery the first week of school and I was going to be lucky if I made it back by senior night, but I trained and worked through hours of pain with a great trainer in Claire [Coudray] and she helped me get back to the field just before the end of December,” he said.

Practice is over for OakLee Spens (on the right). (Photo courtesy OakLee Spens)

Spens added: “Mentally it has been very challenging, but physically it has made me want it more. I’ve been working out and running a lot to stay in shape. I’ve been doing drills to keep my game up and I have been finding places to go hit every so often so I don’t lose any progress in my game,” he said. “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s not impossible.”

Spens came to love and appreciate the game because of his grandfather, Vergil and his father, Randy.

“My grandpa started teaching me this game when I was two years old,” he pointed out. “Growing up having both my grandpa and my dad by my side to guide me into being a better player really made me fall in love with the game. My grandpa actually passed away on my 10th birthday and ever since then it was more than a game to me, it was my life.”

Baseball can humble even the best and Spens is well aware just how tough it is.

“I learned that it is okay to fail, in fact, you have to fail in order to succeed,” he said. “I play a sport where a great player is still failing 70 percent of the time. You have to fail to realize you need to work harder or keep working on a certain skill. I learned that it’s just like life. Sometimes you are going to fail and you are going to get beat down to the ground, but you have to be resilient in order to push back toward the top.”

Spens talked about being moved into the leadoff spot late during his sophomore season and going hitless in his last 17 plate appearances.

OakLee Spens seems pleased with the result. (Photo courtesy OakLee Spens)

“It really sucked, but I learned that I had to get back up and keep trying and keep working because failure is a part of this game and it is a part of life,” he said.

Spens said he tried to make baseball easier, if that’s possible.

“Slowing it down came with a lot of practice in the cages and on the field,” he said. “It takes a lot of repetitions to be confident that you can play this game. I really just took it one pitch at a time and tried to just focus my mind on that. It really helped me.”

Spens said a game during his junior season, one in which he batted .250 with 12 runs scored and a .343 on-base percentage over 23 games, still brings chills.

“One of the most important games I’ve played in was against Crescenta Valley,” he said. “We needed to at least split to help us get a playoff spot. We were playing at home under the lights and it was one of the best games I have ever played in my life.”

Spens added: “I scored two runs, one very important run in the fifth to tie the game at two a piece,” he said. “Then I believe in the top of the seventh, I threw one of their runners out at the plate, keeping the game tied which later ended up as a walk-off win for our team.”

Though professional baseball in America dates to 1869, it has changed, which is part of its appeal for Spens.

“Baseball is always evolving,” he noted. “Nowadays, pitchers are throwing faster and have more movement to the pitches, while hitters are working on proper launch angle to hit a home run. If you master one thing, it evolves and you have to remaster it, even at that you always have to keep practicing or you will lose your skills.”

After playing baseball four years including one at the junior varsity level, Spens said he will look back fondly on this time.

“High school baseball was what I envisioned it to be,” he said. “Besides the ending, I loved every moment that I was able to spend out on the field. It is something I will never forget for as long as I live. It was a great ride while it lasted.”

Class of 2020 Produces Many Future College Athletes

The class of 2020 wasn’t able to end its high school experience the way it had hoped to due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the 2019-2020 school year still provided a number of quality student athletes, even though we didn’t get to see all of them.

A large number of them performed well enough in their respective sports to continue at the next level.

The following is a list of Burroughs and Burbank High graduates as well as others who live in the city and attend private schools that will play collegiate athletics.

Burroughs

The Indians have a strong graduating class with a number of athletes who will move on to top colleges.

CIF champion swimmer Maya Wilson, who leaves Burroughs with every single individual event record in school history, will continue her career at UCLA.

Volleyball star Lydia Grote will follow in her older sister Marin’s footsteps by playing in the Pacific-12 Conference.

Lydia Grote (2) will continue her career at UC Berkeley. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

Lydia will play for UC Berekley, whereas Marin is at the University of Washington.

Water polo goalie Emmanuella Nathan will continue her career at the University of the Pacific.

Softball player Isabella Kam was solid in the classroom as well as on the field and will play in the Ivy League for Dartmouth.

Cross country runner Robert McGraham will continue his distance running career at Loyola Marymount University.

Golfer Nico Coccio has signed to continue his career in Oklahoma at Rogers State University.

Also from the Burroughs softball team, Sidnie Dabbadie will go across the country to attend New Jersey City College. Sabrina Englebrecht will move on to El Camino College in Torrance and Memorie Munoz will play at College of the Canyons.

From the Burroughs baseball team, Ricky Perez and Brian Garcia will both attend Morningside College in Iowa. Teammate Albert Prado will also be moving to the Midwest as he is continuing his career at Ottawa University in Kansas. Johnny Angel and Jorge Gutierrez will both stay local at play at LA Mission College.

Distance runner Samantha Hoxsie will continue her career at Glendale Community College.

She will be joined at Glendale College by a few more classmates.

Basketball players A’sia Morales and Sophie Hawkins will suit up for the Vaqueros where they will join their high school coach Vicky Oganyan, who will play her sophomore season.

Glendale College is also expected to gain a large group of Burroughs football players.

Carson Cardenaz, Nick Garcia, Henry Diaz, Chance Spinks and Eric Quintero all plan on playing for the Vaqueros. Boys basketball player Corwin Smith will continue his career at College of the Canyons.

Boys volleyball player Connor Burroughs will play at Moorpark College.

Camila Sanchez-Tellez will continue her volleyball career at Pasadena City College.

Burbank

The Bulldogs are led by their distance runners, who have without question been the most successful sport in the school’s history.

The group of Victor Goli, Dayne Ellis, Anthony Chiaravalle and Steven Wright will all run at Cal State Northridge.  They led Burbank to fifth place finish in the state meet in cross country and a top-10 overall state ranking that combined all divisions.

Victor Goli is one of four Bulldogs headed to CSUN.

Sol Fernandez, who had a stellar career with the girls cross country team, will continue at Humboldt State University.

From the Burbank baseball team, Jakob Duarte will play in the Ivy League at Cornell.

OakLee Spens will continue his career at Lakeland College in Wisconsin.  Josh Balos and Luis Martinez will continue their careers at LA Valley College.

Troy Lee will move on to Pasadena City College and Dominik Severo will play at LA Mission College.

Burbank’s football team will be well represented.

Lineman Craig Rushton will continue at Glendale College. Devin Housholder will play at College of the Canyons.

Shawn Wilson will be playing at LA Valley College.

Issac Glover, Ben Burnham and Armando De La Cruz all plan on playing on the gridiron but remain undecided.

From the Burbank track team, Amira Ottosson will continue her sprinting career at the University of San Diego. James Smyth will continue his throwing career locally at Occidental College in Eagle Rock.

Water polo player Sera Shahbazian will continue her career at LA Valley College.

Girls soccer player Ani Akopyan will continue her career at Los Angeles City College.

Providence

The Pioneers Andrew Dabbaghian will continue his career at College of the Canyons. Teammates Michael Joanou, A’Jahni Levias , Jordan Shelley and Bryce Whitaker will also their respective careers.

Jonou will play for Aurora University in Illinois. Levias is moving on to Central Wyoming College. Shelley will be playing at Northwest Tech in Kansas and Whitaker will be at Lamar College in Colorado.

Also from Providence, Nadia Singleton will continue her track and field career at Sonoma State University.

Village Christian

Kendall Jensen will give the UC Berkeley women’s volleyball a second player from Burbank as she joins her close friend, Burroughs grad Lydia Grote.

Also from Village Christian, Bella Orozco will continue her softball career at Alfred University in New York. Jalyne McFall will continue in football at New Mexico State. Mackenzie Woo will play lacrosse at Gordon College in Massachusetts.

Quentin Roberts, who played for the Burbank Raptors Basketball Club, will continue his volleyball career at Thomas More University in Kentucky.

 

Burbank Baseball Blanked 11-0 By Visiting Arcadia

By Rick Assad

For the second time this week, the Burbank High baseball team faced a very good pitcher and for the second game the Bulldogs fell short.

Burbank managed just one hit against senior Dustin Allen on Friday night and lost 11-0 in a Pacific League match at home.

Ian Schenk (shown) came in a relieved Ryan King, who went four innings for the Bulldogs against Arcadia. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Senior Dominik Severo’s leadoff double to left center in the sixth inning was all Burbank could manage versus the hard-throwing left-hander, who struck out seven and didn’t issue a walk.

“After we take this, I feel like it’s better for us. It’s going to motivate us more to push through the season and come out with a win every single time we come out and play harder,” said Severo, the catcher. “I think they’re [Arcadia] some good competition, but they’re not better than us. So if we just bring it to every team we play, we can win this all.”

Junior Mikey Easter, who pitched one frame, replaced Allen and was able to strike out senior Aidan Gonzalez, looking.

Junior Ian Scheck then bounced back to Easter and then induced senior Oaklee Spens to ground out to third base.

Ryan King is about to tag Arcadia’s Alex Dolan, who was caught in a rundown. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“We just missed out on a couple of opportunities,” said Spens, the center fielder. “We just gotta get back to practice and fix it. I think we’ll come back tomorrow and have a team meeting and we’ll bounce back. We’re a good team.”

The final score looked lopsided, but the Bulldogs (3-4 and 0-2 in league) only trailed 1-0 in the second inning and 3-0 after five frames.

“Sports is a lot about having a short memory,” Burbank coach Bob Hart said. “You have to learn from your mistakes, but at the same time you have to turn the page. We’ll come back. We’ll practice hard. It’s next man up.”

The contest fell apart when the Apaches, who knocked off the Bulldogs 9-0 on Tuesday, tacked on five runs in the sixth inning and added a three-run seventh for a 11-0 lead.

It’s a close play at first base as Jaden Rez is about to apply the tag. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Junior Ryan King was Burbank’s starting pitcher and allowed a one-out single to senior Gavin Vogel (two hits).

King rallied and fanned Easter looking and saw senior Preston Howey fly out to right.

King took the loss after toiling four innings, surrendering five hits and one run with four strike outs and two walks with a hit batter.

Arcadia (4-2 and 2-0 in league) pulled ahead 1-0 in the second inning when senior Justin Rios (four hits) slapped a one-out, run-scoring single to left field that plated junior Brandon Nguyen, who reached on an error.

Three frames later, the Apaches extended their advantage to 3-0 when they sent seven batters to the plate.

It’s wild and wholly at third base as Jakob Duarte tries to get Alex Dolan out. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Sophomore Alex Dolan’s force out scored Easter, who walked and a run-tallying single to left field by Rios brought home Howey, who was safe on an infield hit.

The next inning put the game out of reach as Arcadia trotted nine hitters to the dish.

The key hit was a two-out, three-run double to deep left by Rios that made it 8-0.

Two batters earlier, junior Matthew McIntire walked with the bases loaded for a 4-0 edge and it became 5-0 when Dolan (three hits) was safe on an infield single.

A three-run seventh capped off the evening for the Apaches as nine batters went to the plate in an inning that featured two Burbank miscues.

Two of the three runs were scored on bases-loaded walks to Howey and pinch-hitter senior Sean Jackson.

Senior Jared Hunter entered the contest in the seventh inning for Arcadia as senior Adam Loera hit back to the box, junior Jaden Rez lined out to left field and senior Troy Lee fanned swinging to end the game.

Burbank Baseball Takes Out Kennedy, 3-1, In Easton Tournament Finale

By Rick Assad

A potent and effective lefty-righty pitching combination was simply too good when the Burbank High baseball team faced visiting Kennedy on Tuesday afternoon in the final matchup of the prestigious Easton Tournament.

Josh Balos went five and two-third innings and Ryan King worked a flawless one and one-third in a 3-1 triumph over the Cougars.

Senior Josh Balos went five and two-third innings and picked up the win over Kennedy. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“Solid pitching and no free passes. Put the ball in play and a little situational hitting. Good things happen,” Burbank coach Bob Hart said. “I liked my guys’ energy today and they were in the game and I liked it.”

The Bulldogs (3-2) scored all of their runs in the fifth inning as eight batters made their way to home plate.

Senior Troy Lee led off the fifth with a line-drive base hit to right field.

With one out, junior Ian Schenk drew a walk as Lee trotted to second base.

When senior Aidan Gonzalez walked, it filled the bases and after senior Tyler La Marsna reached base on a fielder’s choice, Lee scored the tying run.

Junior Andrew Wright replaced senior starter Jonathan Arrieta on the mound for the Cougars (3-2) and was greeted by senior Oaklee Spens lofting a deep fly ball to center field that plated Schenk and made it 2-1.

Ryan King earned a four-out save against the Cougars. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

King then stepped up and laced a hard-hit smash that grazed the shortstop’s glove and found a home in left field for a 3-1 cushion as Gonzalez scored.

The only inning that Balos, who picked up the win, struggled was the fourth when Kennedy sent five hitters to the plate.

The key hit was a one-out double down the left-field line by senior Vince Esparza that scored junior Chris Hosegera, who was safe on an error as the Cougars led 1-0.

Balos then composed himself and was able to get junior Daniel Tovar on a fine defensive play by senior third baseman Jakob Duarte for the second out and senior Joel Castillo on a terrific scoop by junior first baseman Jaden Rez on Duarte’s throw for the third out.

Balos worked two perfect innings including the first frame as the senior left-hander induced junior Manolo Tafolla to foul out to Rez, saw junior Jonathan Gonzalez ground out to second baseman La Marsna and fanned Hosegera swinging.

“My approach out there was to attack every batter,” said Balos, whose best pitch is a changeup. “Throw them a lot of off-speed and keep them off their feet and attack, attack, attack.”

The Bulldogs managed four hits in a 3-1 triumph over visiitng Kennedy. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Balos began the second inning by getting Esparza to ground out to La Marsna, but allowed a single to center to Tovar, who promptly stole second base.

Balos then induced Castillo to fly out to Lee in right field and sophomore Alex Olvera to line out to Spens in center field.

Senior Tommy Mendoza opened the third frame against Balos by drilling a hard-hit ball at Rez, who made an excellent leaping grab.

Balos fanned junior Brandon Alfaro swinging and Tafolla grounded out to King at shortstop for the third out.

In the fifth inning, Balos surrendered a one-out bloop single to left center by Mendoza, who was later picked off and caught in a rundown. When Alfaro bounced out to Duarte, the inning came to an end.

Balos began the sixth inning by getting Tafolla to line out to Spens and getting Gonzalez to ground out to King.

Balos then walked Hosegera, which brought Hart to the mound, who then replaced Balos with King.

King responded by striking out Esparza looking as the threat was vanquished. “I felt confident in myself and I felt confident in my team,” said King, a junior, who picked up the save. “I knew I was going to get that [out].”

King was even better in the seventh inning as the power-throwing right-hander fanned Tovar and Castillo, both looking and secured the last out when Olvera looped a ball to short right field which Lee grabbed a gunned to Rez for the final out.

Duarte led off the second inning by lining a single to center field, but was left stranded. Spens opened the third by smacking a single to left and then swiping second base before moving to third on a grounder.

 

Burbank Football in a Good Position Again

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

A pattern has developed for the Burbank High football program and that’s a good thing.

The team is generally young and talented in odd years and championship ready in even years.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Things don’t figure to change in 2019 as Burbank looks like it has more than enough talent to qualify for the CIF Southern Section playoffs for an eighth consecutive year.

Burbank once again has a number of solid underclassmen to go along with a solid but not as spectacular senior class.

“(There’s) a lot of guys that played important roles on last year’s team. They weren’t the guys getting their names in the paper or scoring the touchdowns necessarily, but they know what it takes, which is nice,” third-year head coach Adam Colman said. “Varsity isn’t a new experience for them. It is something that they are used to. They have a little chip on their shoulder to show now that we belong. It’s a fun group to coach. There’s a lot of competition. We’ve got a lot of positions that are two deep, two to three deep at most.”

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Most notably gone from last season’s 7-4 squad are quarterback Matthew Porras (Whitworth University) and two-way stars Erik Harutyunyan (UC Berkley) and Duncan Smith (Fresno State).

They won’t easily be replaced.

Junior left-handed quarterback Aram Araradian (6-foot, 175 pounds) takes over for Porras but is hardly new to the role as he has seen game action on the varsity each of the last two seasons.

Senior running back Issac Glover (5-9, 195) who missed part of last season due to injury is back at full strength and will be the main threat out of the backfield. Junior Max Mendieta (5-7, 165) could also see time carrying the ball.

Araradian’s passing options are solid with senior Ben Burnham (6-1, 175), junior Brandon Pena (5-10, 165) and sophomore Jack Sapyta (5-10, 155) all returning.

Senior Vincent Vang (5-3, 125) is a slotback who will replace older brother Chadz Vang, who graduated.
Senior Devin Householder (6-3, 200) will take over the tight end position that was held down by Smith for the last two years.

The offensive line returns two starters in senior center Armando De La Cruz (5-7, 250), who will be a three-year starter, and senior Craig Rushton (6-2, 265).

Senior Seth Jones (6-2, 270) , who spent time at tight end last year, will also fill a role on the line. Juniors Rene Amirian (6-1, 235) and Danny Akopyan (5-9, 220) figure to also see significant playing time on the line. Another name to look for is sophomore Jakob Zuniga (6-2, 275), who transferred from Hoover since the Tornadoes will not play varsity football the next two seasons.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

The defensive line will boast many of the same players who are also on the offensive line along with senior Thomas Chiaravalle (5-8, 205) and sophomore Steilen Varga (5-10, 265).

The linebacker core is led by senior Tyler Murphy (5-8, 185). Mendieta, Glover, and Householder also figure to see time as linebackers.

Others to watch for are juniors Austin Blacano (6-3, 225), Kube Raymond (5-10, 185) and Lucas Sheppe (6-1, 205).

In the defensive secondary, senior Ian Miller (5-10, 165) leads the way. Juniors Owen Cusumano (5-10, 165) and Jarren Flowers (6-0, 175) are also both very talented. Vang, senior Oaklee Spens (5-6, 150), senior Shawn Wilson (6-1, 170) and junior Kaze Gibbs (5-5, 145) figure to add depth.

Colman said there is no clear favorite for the Pacific League title.

“It is going to be very competitive across the board. Pretty much every team has improved since last year,” he said. “Top to bottom there are no sleepers. Everyone is going to be competitive. I could see it shaking out four or five different ways.”

 

 

 

Junior Bulldogs Baseball Camps Are Filled With Joy, Enthusiasm

By Rick Assad
 

 

An overcast sky gave way to an early morning sun as a dozen boys ages six through nine excitedly took the field for the fourth day of the first session of the Junior Bulldogs Baseball Camps at Burbank High on Thursday.

Dressed in baseball caps that ranged from the Dodgers to the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees, each attired in a blue Bulldog T-shirt, armed with sleek aluminum bats that were game-used and brand new and topped off with sleek-looking, pro-styled gloves, the group that included Landon Bailey, Grant Baker, Leo Beebe, Kalin Chin, Clarke Crowther, Kyle Doche, James Gentile, Max Recchia, Ryan Recchia, Dominick Sheetz, Clark Stanis and Dale Vantrease, eagerly took the field.

When asked if it’s fun to participate at the camp, Baker answered in the affirmative. “Of course,” said the nine-year-old who plays Little League for the Ninja Tigers and has a game on Saturday. “We did all kinds of games like over-the-line and four corners.”

For the dozen kids at the Junior Bulldogs Baseball Camps, it’s time to stretch. (Photo Courtesy Mike Graceffo)

Overseeing the camp is Bob Hart, the longtime coach of the Bulldogs along with assistant coach Tony Ciccone.

“I just enjoy instilling the joy of the game to them,” Hart said. “I find that very pure. Very simple. Adults can be complicated. Kids aren’t that complicated.”

Hart said some players actually began at these camps.

“I’ve had kids in my program currently that were in these camps,” he said. “There’s a lot of immeasurable amount of satisfaction in watching a kid who struggles early in the camp and then watching him evolve by the fifth day to the point where his self esteem starts to skyrocket and he feels like he has a place. He’s a contributor. Everyone wants to contribute. These kids are no different.”

Also assisting was Mike Graceffo, a longtime coach in Burbank, who retired from his job at the Parks and Recreation Department in 2016.

Five of Hart’s players were also there lending a hand and they included Jakob Duarte, Oaklee Spens, Justin Robinson, Josh Balos and Curtis Peters.

Here’s a youngster about to take his swings. (Photo Courtesy Mike Graceffo)

Spens has volunteered for these summer camps and has been assisting since he was a freshman.

“Yeah, it’s really fun,” said the junior center fielder who batted leadoff for the Bulldogs of working at the camps. “You kind of get to go back to how you grew up and see how they grow up. You get to teach them. It’s nice to give back.”

Spens then talked about how he developed a love for the game.

“I started really little,” he noted. “My grandpa started teaching me at a really young age. He’d take me to the park and I fell in love with it. It’s full circle.”

Duarte has also been involved with the camps since he was a freshman. “It gives you an opportunity to give back to the program a little,” said the junior first baseman/pitcher. “When I was a kid I went to these camps and thought it was really fun. Yeah, there’s a commonality between me and the kids. It’s still baseball.”

The three-hour camp began with the youngsters running around the baseball field just like the big-league players.

Then four lines with three boys in each line was formed as each stretched to make sure their muscles would be ready for the day’s activity which began with short toss.

It’s all about the team and of course teamwork. (Photo Courtesy Mike Graceffo)

Next on the agenda was the formation of three teams of four as each threw the ball to the next boy.

Once that was over there were two teams of six boys in a straight line as they each threw the ball to the next boy.

The winning team was judged by how fast and accurate the tosses were.

What followed was a simulated game with a Bulldog player taking a  knee and then tossing the ball underhand as each boy took his cuts.

If the ball was hit between the cones, it was a single. If it went further down the line, it was a double, but if it was caught, it was an out.

A young camper gets ready to field a grounder. (Photo Courtesy Mike Graceffo)

The day was capped with Graceffo, who has been a Burbank-area coach for 41 years, tossing the ball underhand to the boys in another simulated game, but this time running to the bases.

“I love it. I love just being with the kids. They keep you moving. They keep you young. I just love coaching baseball. They’re just so full of energy and life and they’re brutally honest,” Graceffo said. “They just love it. They just love being out here. There’s no motive with little ones. They’re just out here to play and have a good time.”

Graceffo then added: “One of the biggest things I find enjoyment in coaching is seeing kids develop,” he said. “Kids that I coached when they were six years old and now they’re young men doing great things in society and doing great things in their city and giving back to their community.”

There were a few breaks in between as the boys ate ice pops, drank water, talked about movies and of course baseball and baseball trivia.

There are three more sessions and boys and girls are welcome and will be held on June 17-21 for ages 11 through 14, July 15-19 for ages 6 through 10 and July 29-August 2 for ages 11 through 14.

For those parents interested, they can to go to www.burbankhighbaseball.org for more information.

Burbank Baseball Wins Thriller, 3-2, Over Visiting Burroughs

By Rick Assad

 

There’s something magical it seems when the Burbank High baseball team plays in a Pacific League game and it’s a one-run differential.

On Tuesday night, the team participated in its eighth such contest and came away with its seventh victory after defeating visiting Burroughs 3-2 in eight innings before a capacity crowd.

Runs and hits were somewhat hard to come by, but errors seemingly weren’t as each team had four.

The eighth inning began with sophomore Ryan King drawing a walk off senior Julian Jaramillo, who took the loss after working one and one-third innings while walking three.

Burbank pitcher Andrew De La Torre went eight innings and allowed four hits and two runs. Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

King stole second base and senior Davis Mieliwocki, who belted a towering home run to right field in the fourth that tied it at 2-2 and singled in the first, was intentionally walked.

“We definitely settled down and Andrew [De La Torre] pitched a really good game so we had to pick him up with the at-bats,” said Mieliwocki of Burroughs’ two-run first.

Mieliwocki then spoke about his long homer.

“I knew he was going to give me a pitch to hit,” he said. “I just remember getting a pitch I could handle and doing damage with it.”

Both runners then moved up a base when senior Daniel Ruiz laid down a well-placed sacrifice bunt.

Junior Troy Lee stepped into the batter’s box and hit a ball back to the pitcher, who didn’t handle it cleanly as King raced home with the winning run.

Bob Hart, the Burbank coach, thought that Burroughs would walk the bases loaded and one out to force a play at home plate or a double play that would end the inning.

“I kind of thought they would do that,” he said of the strategy. “They were all pumped up. It’s a big Burbank-Burroughs game,” he said of the longtime rivalry that can be tough on your nerves. “You try to not panic. You take a business-like approach.”

The Indians (10-14 and 7-6 in league), who will host the Bulldogs (9-12-1 and 9-4 in league) on Friday night at 6 p.m., bolted ahead 2-0 in the first inning with the assistance of two Burbank miscues.

Julian Jaramillo was tagged with the loss. Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Junior Brian Garcia lined to center field and senior Michael Le struck out looking by De La Torre, a senior who went eight innings.

“I don’t really focus on throwing hard as long as I’ve got defense,” said De La Torre, who yielded four hits with four strikeouts and four walks. “Yes, I was tired. I always want a chance to get my team through.”

Senior Collin Johnson walked and Jaramillo drilled a double down the left-field line.

Senior Nicco Chuidian was safe at first base when two errors were committed on one play as both runners crossed the plate.

“We took the lead because they threw the ball around,” Burroughs coach Craig Sherwood said. “We average about two runs a game and our pitching is just over-taxed when they have to be perfect on the mound all the time.”

Sherwood, whose team is hitting a collective .230 with a team pitching staff earned-run average of 2.50, then added: “You’ve gotta play defense and you’ve gotta score runs. There’s three things in this game. Pitching. Hitting and defense.”

Burbank shortstop Ryan King making the throw to first base. Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Sherwood said he should have pulled senior Xavier Dubon after three innings.

“That’s on me,” he pointed out. “They had a left-hander leading off and he struggles with left-handers. Our kids play hard. Our kids play well. I’m proud of our kids. I’m proud of all our guys.”

The Bulldogs came up with one run in the first inning with one out as  King was safe at first base on an error.

Mieliwocki’s single to center field off Dubon, who toiled four innings, striking out one with four hits surrendered, moved King to third base and cut the lead to 2-1 when Ruiz was safe on a force out.

After fanning senior Preston Lemus swinging and getting junior Hyatt Entz to ground to third base, De La Torre walked junior Albert Prado, but induced Garcia to bounce to third base.

Dubon worked a perfect second inning as junior Dominik Severo grounded to third base. Junior Jakob Duarte grounded to second baseman Lemus, who made a spectacular play, and senior Cody Winters grounded to first base.

De La Torre faced five batters in the third as Le walked to begin the frame. De La Torre whiffed Johnson swinging and Jaramillo popped up to the pitcher.

Both Burroughs and Burbank were a bit sloppy defensively as each committed four errors. Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Chuidian was safe on an error as Le moved to second, but the inning ended when senior Andres Salazar popped up to shortstop.

Junior Aidan Gonzalez led off the third with a single to left center, but junior Oaklee Spens bounced into a double play and King hit back to De La Torre, who tagged him.

Lemus flied to center field to lead off the fourth and Entz was aboard on an miscue. De La Torre hit into a double play to end the frame.

Dubon is a submarine-style hurler and left an offering slightly up and in where Mieliwocki likes it and sent the pitch high and deep over the fence.

Dubon faced seven batters in the fourth inning as Burroughs committed two errors and beside the homer, allowed only a single to Severo.

De La Torre saw Garcia bounce back to the box and Le fly to center. Johnson walked, but Jaramillo flied to center.

Chuidian replaced Dubon and worked a 1-2-3 fifth inning as Spens flied to center, King lined to second base and Mieliwicki fanned, catcher to first base.

The Indians collected two hits in the sixth off De La Torre as Chuidian had an infield single to lead off the stanza and Lemus added a one-out base hit to left.

Salazar, the second batter in the frame, struck out swinging, while Entz was safe on a fielder’s choice as Chuidian was out at third base. Prado’s liner to second base concluded the inning.

Chuidian tossed another perfect inning in the sixth when Ruiz flied to left field, Lee fanned swinging and Severo lined to center field.

Garcia opened the seventh inning by grounding to shortstop, but Le roped a single to right center. The inning was over when Johnson bounced into a double play.

Jaramillo took the mound in the seventh inning and issued a leadoff walk to Duarte and senior Vincent Romano entered as a pinch runner.

Pinch hitter, junior Tyler La Marsna, grounded into a force out, Gonzalez grounded to second base and Spens bounced to Jaramillo.

De La Torre worked a perfect eighth frame as Jaramillo was out on a terrific stop and throw by King, the shortstop.

Chuidian, who fanned two hitters across two innings, lined to second base and Salazar popped to second.

Burbank Baseball Allows Nine-Run Fifth, Falls 15-5 To Pasadena

By Rick Assad

 

An early four-run cushion by the Burbank High baseball team wasn’t enough production against visiting Pasadena in a Pacific League game as it dropped a 15-5, five-inning decision on Tuesday afternoon.

During the nine-run, fifth-inning outburst, Pasadena sent 12 hitters to the plate with eight reaching on hits that included a grand slam to right field by sophomore Michael Gonzalez, who finished with three hits.

Gonzalez’s base hit to center in the second at-bat of the frame scored a run as did senior Robert Olivades, junior Jon Luke Goldman (two hits), sophomore Jesus Zuniga (two hits including a triple) and senior Christian Zambrano (two hits that included a three-base hit).

Down 10 runs and in order to avoid the 10-run mercy rule, Burbank needed to score at least a run and came close.

Andrew De La Torre was the starting pitcher in Tuesday’s 15-5 defeat to Pasadena. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Junior Dominik Severo led off with an infield hit, but was erased when junior Jakob Duarte bounced into a double play and when senior Cody Winters struck out looking, the game was over.

“We were missing a lot of pitches that were down and by us not finding that sweet spot, we were leaving the ball up and they were hitting the ball,” Burbank coach Bob Hart said. “I don’t think they’ve had that kind of offensive showing based on the stats that I’ve seen.”

Hart continued: “We didn’t deserve to win that game,” he noted. “It all works out the way it’s supposed to. When you get outplayed, you’re supposed to lose. And when you don’t do the basics, you’re supposed to lose.”

Burbank (7-12-1 and 7-4 in league) seized control 4-0 in the first stanza when it used three hits and a Pasadena error.

Junior Troy Lee’s two-out double to left center brought in junior Oaklee Spens (singled in the fourth inning), who reached on a two-base outfield error.

Senior Davis Mieliwocki was hit by a pitch and later came around to score on a single to center field by Severo.

Burbank stretched its lead to 4-0 on Winters’ double to left field that scored Lee and Severo.

Pasadena cut into the advantage 4-1 in the second when junior Hugo Escobedo lifted a sacrifice fly to left that brought home Zambrano, who lined a one-out triple to left center.

A four-run third inning by Pasadena (11-11 and 6-5 in league) made it 5-4 as 10 batters made their way to home plate that included three hits and two Burbank errors.

Senior Christian Perez’s scoring fly brought in sophomore Jackson Stuart, who doubled to left field to begin the inning.

Zambrano’s force out scored a run and Escobedo’s base hit to left field also knocked in a run.

Burbank, shown in a recent game against Crescenta Valley, committed three errors in a 15-5 loss to Pasadena. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“We’ve never had an offensive game like that today, so it was very fun to watch,” Pasadena coach Mike Parisi said. “We’ve been working hard on keeping the ball out of the air and trying to hit line drives and let the ball travel.”

Parisi, who was at Pasadena for eight years and two at La Salle, has guided the Bulldogs to the CIF Southern Section playoffs seven of the eight seasons, knows that nothing’s guaranteed.

“If you don’t come to play, any team can beat anybody,” he pointed out. “There’s a lot of baseball left. There’s three games left. Every game’s a dogfight. We’re fighting to get into the playoffs.”

Burbank, which committed three errors to a pair for Pasadena, leveled it at 5-5 in the third when senior Daniel Ruiz opened up with a single up the middle, took second base on an error, third on Lee’s single to right field and scored on Severo’s grounder.

Senior Andrew De La Torre ventured two and two-third innings while giving up four hits and one walk.

Junior Josh Balos worked one and one-third innings, surrendered four hits and absorbed the loss.

Sophomore Ryan King toured one-third of an inning and yielded five hits and a walk and senior Joey Clark went two-thirds of an inning and gave up two hits with a strikeout.

Goldman worked an inning, hit a batter, walked a batter and allowed three hits, senior Jordan Zach tossed three innings, striking out four with a walk and three hits allowed and was credited with the win and senior Gavin Nouskajian pitched one inning, gave up one hit and fanned one.

Burbank Baseball Edges Visiting Crescenta Valley 3-2

By Rick Assad

 

In the game’s final at-bat in the eighth inning, Burbank High’s Dominik Severo knew the winning run was standing on third base and merely wanted to make contract.

Severo did and when junior Chad Ruf’s offering found his bat and then sizzled into center field for a base hit, junior pinch runner Adam Loera, who entered for junior Troy Lee, who was nicked by a pitch to lead off the frame, crossed the plate with the game-winning run, the Bulldogs earned a hard-fought 3-2 win over visiting Crescenta Valley on Tuesday night in a Pacific League game.

The extra-inning affair also snapped Burbank’s 19-game losing streak against the Falcons, who fell for the first time in league this season.

Andrew De La Torre didn’t get the win after working seven innings and allowing two runs. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

In the inning, junior Tyler La Marsna, who came in as a pinch hitter, laid down a sacrifice bunt, but was safe at first base on a Falcon throwing error.

Junior Jakob Duarte also laid down a well-placed sacrifice bunt that advanced the runners to second and third base.

“I was a little nervous, but I just thought I have to stay composed and play my game and hit it through the infield and that’s just what I did,” said Severo, a junior, who had two hits including an infield single in the fourth. “I got out of the box and took three breaths and just relaxed and put it out of my mind.”

The contest drifted into extra innings when the Falcons (12-6 and 6-1 in league) scored in the sixth that made it 2-2 when junior Isaac Sung’s blistering double to center field scored junior Chase Smith, who drew a walk to begin the frame.

The Bulldogs forged ahead 2-1 with a tally in the fifth inning as junior Oaklee Spens led off with a bloop single to left, went to second on a grounder by sophomore Ryan King, stole third base and came home on a wild pitch.

Neither team scored until the third inning when Crescenta Valley made it 1-0. Sophomore Will Grimm delivered a one-out infield single, took second on senior Andrew De La Torre’s wild pitch and advanced to third base on an infield single by senior Brian Ghattas.

When Ghattas took off for second base and the throw was on its way, Grimm bolted for home and scored.

Oaklee Spens scored two of Burbank’s three runs against visiting Crescenta Valley. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“You pitch. You play catch and you put balls in play and run the bases the right way, good things are going to happen,” Burbank coach Bob Hart said. “I’m always happy when it’s a quality win. They’re a quality program. Anytime you can do well against them, it’s a feather in your cap.”

De La Torre was superb, allowing six hits with three walks and two strikeouts across seven innings.

Grimm was De La Torre’s equal, working seven innings, striking out five, walking four with five hits yielded.

The Bulldogs (5-9-1 and 5-2 in league) leveled it at 1-1 with a tally in the third inning as Lee’s single to right center brought in Spens, who led off with a hit to right center, and scooted to second base on King’s sacrifice bunt.

After senior Davis Mieliwocki walked, senior Daniel Ruiz was safe on a force out as Spens took third base.

Third baseman Davis Mieliwocki contributed three outstanding defensive plays, which helped the Bulldogs in their 3-2 win over the Falcons. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Mieliwocki played third base and made three spectacular defensive plays.

“He got some action,” Hart said. “Even the ball he didn’t get, he knocked down and saved a run.”

Both teams used a pair of hurlers and each reliever was the pitcher of record as senior Joey Clark was credited with the victory after venturing one inning, walking one, hitting one batter and allowing one hit.

“My team was mentally into it tonight,” Hart said. “You could tell from the get-go and we had a terrible infield.”

Ruf absorbed the setback after surrendering one hit with a hit batter in one-third of an inning.

Aidan Gonzalez running hard to first base. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

De La Torre’s initial inning saw him face four hitters as Grimm grounded to second base, junior Vincent Parrott reached on an infield single, but erased when Ghattas lined to center field and Grimm was picked off at first base on the return throw.

De La Torre faced five batters in the second inning as Smith lined to right field, sophomore Noah Maddox drew a walk and raced to second base on Sung’s fielder’s choice.

De La Torre struck out junior Colby Rees swinging and sophomore Emilio Velis then flied to left field.

The fourth inning was a 1-2-3 frame for De La Torre, who induced Maddox to ground to shortstop, Sung to foul out to first base and Rees to bounce out to third base.

In De La Torre’s fifth inning, the right-hander walked Velis to begin the frame and induced senior Jamie Bleveans to pop up to the catcher.

Grimm singled to center field, Parrott reached on a force out as Velis became the second out and Ghattas flied to left.

De La Torre faced four batters in the seventh inning as Velis grounded to second base, Bleveans reached on an infield hit, but Grimm flied to center field and Parrott fanned looking.

Also getting base hits for the Bulldogs were Ruiz in the first inning and junior Aidan Gonzalez in the seventh.

Burbank Baseball Rallies For 5-4 Victory Over Muir

By Rick Assad

 

For six innings, the Burbank High baseball team managed to score only two runs and trailed by two runs entering the seventh inning.

This all changed as a three-run seventh proved decisive for the host Bulldogs, who rallied and tamed Muir 5-4 in a Pacific League match on Friday night.

Seven batters came to the plate including senior Andrew De La Torre, whose single off senior Brian Love, the losing pitcher, settled into right field as junior Troy Lee, who was safe on a fielder’s choice, scored the game-winning tally.

Ryan King was credited with the victory after picking up for starter Davis Mielowocki. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“Finding a hole and putting the ball anywhere,” De La Torre said of his game-winning single.

When the Bulldogs trailed it looked as though the Mustangs were in position to even the season series at a game apiece.

Was there any doubt that Burbank would win?

“Maybe once or twice, but then we found a way to get it back and pick it up,” De La Torre said of the rally. “We just wanted it more than they did.”

Two batters earlier, senior Cody Winters knocked home two runs with a sharply hit ball that found its way to left field as sophomore Ryan King, who led off by reaching on an error and senior Davis Mielowocki, who walked, both scored.

Love went two and two-third innings, striking out one, walking one with three runs allowed and three hits.

Senior Emilio Martinez gave up four hits, two runs, hit one batter, fanned three and walked four over four innings for the Mustangs.

Muir (6-3 and 0-2 in league) is much improved this season after opening its campaign with five straight wins.

Cody Winters delivered a two-run single for the Bulldogs, who rallied for a 5-4 win over Muir. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“They have speed,” longtime Burbank coach Bob Hart said of the fleet-footed Mustangs. “Speed is a tough opponent sometimes. But the key to that is not give away free bases.”

Though down by two runs entering the seventh, Hart remained confident.

“This team has shown that ability where they’re not going to just sit down the last two innings and call it in,” he said. “Sometimes when you’re chasing one run and that team gets one more, it’s like the nail in the coffin.”

The Mustangs, who lost at home 1-0 to the Bulldogs on Tuesday, scored two of their runs without the benefit of a base hit in the first and third innings.

Burbank (2-3-1 and 2-0 in league) leveled it at 1-1 with a tally in the second inning when junior Jakob Duarte walked with one out.

Davis Mielowocki reached base twice and scored a run in the seventh. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Junior Adam Loera entered as a pinch runner and then advanced to second base on a balk and third base on De La Torre’s single to center field.

De La Torre took off for second base hoping to draw a throw and did, but put on the brakes and raced back to first base.

While this was transpiring, Loera sensed it was time to run and blasted off for home plate with the run.

Burbank tied it at 2-2 in the fourth inning when junior Oaklee Spens lofted a sacrifice fly to left field with one out.

Duarte led off the inning with a double off the screen in right center and advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt from De La Torre, who also singled in the sixth inning.

Burbank’s two pitchers limited the Mustangs to four hits and four runs. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Muir, which stole six bases, took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Mielowocki issued a one-out walk to senior Aryonis Harrison.

Mielowocki allowed three runs over five-plus innings, yielded two hits with 11 strikeouts and three walks.

“I just wanted to make sure I got ahead with my strikes,” Mielowocki said of his outing that saw him fan the side in the second and fourth and strike out two batters in the first and third. “Make sure I could work off that first-pitch strike. Hopefully get some guys out. Have some guys roll over and have my defense work behind me.”

King was credited with the win after touring two frames, giving up two hits with one strikeout and one hit batter.

Harrison then stole second base and third base and scored when Mielowocki uncorked a wild pitch.

Mielowocki walked junior Harper Taylor with two down, but was left stranded when senior Tobias Humphrey struck out.

The Mustangs collected a run in the third and forged ahead 2-1 when Mielowocki walked senior Tyquise Solomon to begin the inning.

Burbank collected five walks off two Muir pitchers. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Solomon swiped second base, took third base on Mielowocki’s wild pitch and scored on a run-producing grounder by Harrison.

Junior Amaris Harrison singled to left field to begin the sixth inning.

Harrison stole second base, took third on a sacrifice bunt from Aryonis Harrison and scored to make it 3-2 on a single to center field by junior Ely Resendiz.

A solo run in the seventh gave the Mustangs a 4-2 edge as senior David Solis was nicked with a pitch by Kings to start the inning.

Solis stole second base and with two out, Solomon delivered a bloop single to left field that plated Solis.