Tag Archives: Pacific League

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.”

Rick’s Sports Corner: Lauryn Bailey, Burroughs High’s Soccer Wizard, Survivor

By Rick Assad

Based on talent, overall skill and results, Lauryn Bailey is a veritable magician on the pitch.

In three seasons as a forward for the Burroughs High girls’ soccer team, the soon-to-be senior has scored an eye-popping 67 goals and handed out an incredible 31 assists.

Now that’s truly impressive, but there’s a backstory to her journey. “I’m the third of four girls in my family. My oldest sister [Taylor] has played soccer since she was four [she’s almost 23 ] so I grew up going to her games and wanted to be just like her,” Bailey said. “I love the footwork, the head-on challenges, watching a play we’ve practiced tirelessly unfold on the field, the feeling you get when you “get it in the net,” the sound of the crowd…I love it all.”

Lauryn Bailey (No. 21) is a generational talent according to Brady Riggs, the Burroughs High soccer coach. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Taylor Bailey was part sister and part inspiration, playing soccer four seasons at Burroughs and one at Pierce Junior College.

But there’s more to Bailey’s story.

“I grew up loving the game because of my sister so I naturally gravitated to it at a very young age,” she said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get started until late though, due to an illness. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Wilm’s Tumor at two and a half years old – yep, cancer of the kidney and it had moved to my lung too. No fun! Eight months of daily treatment and years of monitoring my progress before I was officially a survivor and released to play sports. So at the ripe age of eight, I was on my first team!”

Bailey continued: “I studied the game a lot,” she admitted. “I watch the pros play and I try to mimic their moves. I’ll see something in a game on TV and go outside and keep practicing until I get it. Kinda weird, but that’s just me. I’ve had some great coaches that have invested a lot of time in me, too. I’ve learned how to read the field very well and I do a pretty good job at setting myself up for plays, both offensively and defensively because of that.”

Burroughs, along with Arcadia and Crescenta Valley, are the three elite teams in the Pacific League.

Lauryn Bailey is a prolific goal scorer for the Indians. (Photo courtesy Lauryn Bailey)

In Bailey’s freshman season, the Indians went 15-3-3 and 9-1-2 in league as she contributed 18 goals with five assists and was named All-Area first-team.

As a sophomore and one of the captains, Burroughs fashioned a 16-4-2 mark and captured the league banner with a 12-1-1 record, something truly rare for the girls’ program, as Bailey knocked home 25 goals with 15 assists and was rewarded by being tabbed All-Area first-team and All-League first-team.

In her junior campaign, the Indians went 13-6-2 and 10-3-1 in league play with Bailey, again as one of the captains, tallying 24 goals and 11 assists which resulted in her being selected Co-Player of the Year, All-Area first-team and All-League first-team.

Brady Riggs, the Burroughs coach, realizes he has a treasure. “Lo [Lauryn] is a generational talent,” Riggs said. “There’s nothing she can’t do at an incredibly high level. The hardest skill in soccer is to score goals. Lo is a natural goal scorer. She can win games by herself. We won’t see another talent like her in a long time.”

There’s no stopping Lauryn Bailey on the pitch. (Photo courtesy Lauryn Bailey)

Bailey wished the school year wasn’t trimmed because of the worldwide pandemic.

“My junior year in general was good,” she said. “Disappointing that it was cut short due to COVID-19, but grateful my family and friends have all stayed safe and healthy.”

Bailey then added: “As for the season, we fell short. We knew early on we had some big shoes to fill as we had just lost some great players that played key positions,” she said. “We gained some good talent on our team, we just didn’t click and play as a team. That will be the focus as we prepare for next year, senior year!”

Bailey continued: “We’ve trained hard and have too much talent to let a repeat of last season take us out,” she noted. “Pacific League champs, CIF….I plan on going out with a bang and I know my fellow seniors feel the same way.”

Bailey did say COVID-19 has had some affect on the upcoming campaign. “The lack of opportunities to condition and stay in shape have definitely affected our abilities to bond and grow as a team,” she said.

In all three seasons, Bailey and her team have qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

The Indians lost in the second round during her first two seasons and in the opening round as a junior.

Bailey said that it’s extra special playing the more talented league teams. “There’s obviously more reward in playing the better teams and taking the “W” home against a stronger opponent, but the goal is get the win, regardless of how well or not so well the other team may be,” she said.

Fearless, Bailey prefers digging in and getting dirty. “Oh, hands down a physical match,” she said of the type of game she likes to play. “I love a good challenge. The harder they play, the harder I want to play. I love the energy and adrenaline rush a good match delivers. I get amped just thinking about it.”

What kind of mind-set does Bailey, who competed in track and field as a freshman and plays basketball for fun as well as the cardio benefit, have entering a match?

“In general, I’m pretty calm and even-tempered and that rarely changes in a game setting,” she said. “Some coaches knock me for the lack of emotion I exude, but that’s just me. Call it my game face, that’s just how I am. I try not to overthink it, stay out of my own head and just play the game I know how to play.”

Bailey is a team-first player, but also realizes that her presence on the pitch is essential if the Indians are to fare well.

“I hope it means the same for the team as it means for me,” she said. “Trust. Integrity. Talent. Leadership and excellence. At the end of the day, we’re a team. None of us are any good without all of us. Everyone has their role, their skill and we expect each other to bring that to each and every game. Sure, we get frustrated, might make a bad play or shoot off the post a time or two. We get annoyed and may be short tempered in the heat of it all, but if we keep our eyes on the prize and strive to work together, encourage, build strength not just around the game, but as women athletes, we’ve all won! I love this game, but I love this team just as much.”

Rick’s Sports Corner: Burroughs High’s Steven Hubbell, Hoopster, Gunslinger

By Rick Assad

There were times when Steven Hubbell made playing basketball and football for Burroughs High seem effortless.

Whether it was hitting an open teammate for an easy hoop or tossing a perfect spiral downfield, Hubbell was always thinking on his feet and usually made the right play.

Of course, this isn’t easy, but Hubbell was able to elevate his skills while toiling at point guard and quarterback at the prep level.

After a brief stay at Cal Lutheran University, which is a Division III program and Glendale Community College, Hubbell, a 2016 graduate, is a senior on the men’s basketball team at the University of Hawaii Hilo where he’s coming off a campaign in which he played in 21 of the 26 games and drilled 42.1 percent of his three-pointers (eight of 19).

Hubbell, standing 6-foot, 1-inch and weighing 170 pounds, said despite loving both sports, he simply couldn’t turn his back on basketball, where he averaged 12 points with four rebounds and four assists at Burroughs.

Steven Hubbell, shown in a game from last season when he was a junior. (Photo courtesy Steven Hubbell)

“I personally like basketball more,” he said. “I just enjoy the fast pace, up and down action. I like football too, but basketball was always a love thing for me.”

The journey that brought Hubbell to Hawaii Hilo is something that has made him stronger and more determined.

“I knew I wanted to pursue basketball at the collegiate level. After my career at John Burroughs, I was first committed to Cal Lutheran University,” he said. “The second week I was there, the head coach decided to retire, so I quickly left for Glendale Community College after the semester and immediately redshirted so I could practice with the team in preparation for the next year. I spent two years under Coach [Vigen] Jilizian and was honored All-Western State Conference my last year at GCC. I was blessed to be recruited by the University of Hawaii Hilo, where I’m happily at right now.”

Hubbell is extremely thankful for having the opportunity to play for the Vaqueros where he averaged 11.6 points with four boards and 3.2 assists and canned 51 three-pointers as a sophomore.

“The junior college system is not easy, but I found it worth it, looking back now,” he said. “A lot of people don’t find success after JUCO, so I’m blessed that it’s not the case for me.”

Steven Hubbell, a two-sport athlete at Burroughs High, has one more season left at the University of Hawaii Hilo. (Photo courtesy Steven Hubbell)

Like the world at large, everything is at a standstill because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Hubbell, like so many athletes, is trying to stay in shape and is hoping for the best.

“There will obviously be no summer workouts with the team,” he said. “It’s just our responsibility to stay in shape and ready to get back to basketball. As of May 11, my school still plans to have in-person classes for the fall. However, anything could happen and I’m sure they will see what other schools across the world are doing and go from there.”

Hubbell, a Business Management major who played basketball for three seasons and football for two at Burroughs, said that playing two sports are challenging, but he found a way to succeed.

“I’d say a high level of focus is one, but also a strong work ethic is key,” he said. “I also thought that focusing on winning and what I can do to better my team helped in the long run.”

Playing point guard and quarterback are similar in many respects, according to Hubbell, who was named All-Pacific League first-team as a senior, second-team as a junior and honorable mention as a sophomore while playing basketball.

“You must be a leader whether that is encouraging your guys or by being in the front during drills,” he said. “We had tremendous talent on both teams and a lot of us are playing at the next level right now. I love to compete, so my attitude was very similar in both sports.”

A 10-game regular season football schedule can be grueling and when the CIF Southern Section games are added, it was even more taxing for Hubbell, who was selected All-CIF and was named the Pacific League Offensive Player of the Year in football as a senior.

“It was tough my senior year because I hurt my back my last football game,” said Hubbell, who threw for 1,853 yards and tossed 27 scoring passes and ran for six touchdowns. “I had to miss the next week of basketball practice which killed me, because I was eager to get out there on the court. It took me a couple of games to get back in condition, but after that, it was smooth.”

Ultimately, the Indians’ postseason run during Hubbell’s senior year in football and basketball was incredible, even if each didn’t reach their final destination.

“We made it to the quarters that year [2015], but we did win the Pacific League,” Hubbell explained. “Looking back, it was a great experience because Burroughs hadn’t won a conference title in many years and haven’t won one since. I take pride in that even though we fell short of our real goal of a CIF championship.”

The Indians went 10-2 and 7-0 in league after routing the Bulldogs 47-21 in the regular-season finale.

Their season concluded when they fell to host St. Francis 21-7, in part because their best running back, Chance Bell, who is playing for San Diego State, was out with an injury.

The final regular-season contest against Burbank was something to behold. “Memorial Field was packed and we secured our Pacific League title,” Hubbell explained of its singular importance.

Several months later at the Indians’ gymnasium, Hubbell capped off his high school athletic career when Burroughs faced highly-ranked Santa Monica in the CIF semifinals, with a full house in attendance.

“We played against a guy named Jonah Mathews, who gave us the work and he just finished his career at USC, which is my favorite school, so it was salt in the wound every time I watch the Trojans,” he said. “But the atmosphere was crazy that night and I’ll never forget that.”

Mathews was almost unstoppable, scoring at will against the Indians, who lost 68-45 and finished 22-8 and 9-5 in league, hitting three-pointers, something that he would do at USC, where he broke the career school record with 247.

Hubbell said playing two demanding sports isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you have the desire, go right ahead.

“I’d say go play three [sports] if you have enough energy,” he said. “It may be mentally draining at times, but if you’re passionate about the sport then you could sacrifice a little. But just know that your summer’s will be all booked up. You will also make friends for life!”

Rick’s Sports Corner: Bri Castro, Burbank High Sharpshooter

By Rick Assad

When the Burbank High girls’ basketball team trotted onto the hardwood, everyone in the building knew that at some point in the game, Bri Castro would launch one of her patented three-pointers.

When the first one trickled through the net, and they did 35 percent of the time during her senior season, the result would be that the Bulldogs student body rose from its seats behind hearty cheers, while the four other members of the squad and Castro herself, were wholly pumped.

At this juncture, fans and players realized that a big scoring game was possible and that Castro would unload the long-ball whenever she saw daylight. And even when there wasn’t much space to shoot.

This past season, Castro, a 5-foot, five-inch shooting guard, set the single game school mark for most three-pointers made in a game with nine.

Beside being a long-range shooter, Bri Castro was an excellent defender. She is shown in a game against rival Burroughs this season. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Castro, who played three years on the varsity, also established the Burbank record for most three-pointers converted in a career.

What made Castro so good at drilling three-pointers was that she was able to get off the shot quickly, especially during transitions.

And let’s be clear, Castro, who could also drive the lane and settle for easier shots, but found a home beyond the three-point arc, wasn’t shy about hoisting her long-range bombs which could turn a deficit into a scoring run or add to a lead.

“My role on the team was to be the shooter,” said Castro, who averaged 12 points per game this past season, which led to her being named All-Pacific League second-team despite the squad not making the CIF Southern Section playoffs after going 10-18 overall and 3-11 in league play.

Castro said that even if the trey wasn’t finding the hoop, she was sure it would eventually.

“I would also go in [to a game] confident that my shots will hit,” said Castro, who averaged five rebounds, one steal and two deflections a game as a senior and drilled 65 percent from the free-throw line.

Whether it was shooting the basketball or coming away with a victory, Castro was always confident.

“Before a game, I was always thinking we are going to win,” she said. “I never went into a game with a losing mentality because that won’t be good for the team.”

The Bulldogs basketball team huddles during a time out. Bri Castro (standing on far right with hands on hips) listens. Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

In the other two seasons that Castro was on the varsity, the Bulldogs went 15-13 and 6-8 in league and 10-18 and 5-9 in league and didn’t qualify for the postseason.

As a junior, Castro scored about nine points a game and as a sophomore, she knocked in just under seven points.

While the spring sports were wiped out because of COVID-19, the basketball season was spared the same fate.

Burbank coach Jett Del Mundo spent two seasons with Castro and felt she set the offensive tone for the team and developed into a solid all-around player.

“In the short time that we were together, Bri went from a one dimensional spot-up shooter who didn’t know what it meant to play championship defense to a more complete player who played on both sides of the ball,” he said.

How was Castro able to transform herself into being more than just a long-range jump shooter?

For Del Mundo, it was sweat and dedication. “She put the work in at our team practices and put in time on her own, committing herself to becoming a more complete shooter who can not only hit the open three, but also relocate and attack the basket,” he said.

Del Mundo went on: “In doing so, Bri not only put herself in the conversation of All-Pacific League players in her senior season, she also became the focal point of our team offense,” he said. “I consider her a Top Three shooter amongst every opponent we played this past season and rightfully earned every accolade in her final season.”

Castro, who will attend college, but isn’t sure which, and likewise isn’t positive she’ll play basketball, concurred with her coach.

“The best part of my game besides my shots were my passes,” she said. “I believe I always gave the ball into my posts whenever I saw them available. My defense also improved this year.”

Even without having gone to the CIF playoffs, Del Mundo believes during Castro’s tenure at Burbank, she and the other seniors set in motion better and brighter days for the Bulldogs.

“We are confident that we are building in the right direction,” he said. “Any future success started with Bri’s class.”

One thing Castro enjoyed was helping the underclassmen players. “I liked being one of the team leaders because I loved being that support to the younger girls and always help them if they need something,” she said.

Castro said she will have fond memories of her time on the basketball court. “Looking back at my high school career, I will mainly remember the relationships I built on the court with many of the girls,” she said. “They were such a great group of girls to play with from beginning to end.”

While every game was taken seriously, especially in league play, few were more exciting and compelling than when Burbank met Burroughs because it brought out students from both schools, family and friends, cheerleaders and the bands.

“Playing Burroughs was different each year, but I’ll always remember those games,” she said.

Castro said playing hoops for four years including the junior varsity as a freshman, was an enjoyable experience.

“I liked basketball because it was a fun getaway from reality and I got to be active,” she noted.

Castro also has some sage words of wisdom for first-year players. “Advice I’d give an incoming freshman is to play their game,” she said. “Find ways to improve it. Also to give it their all on and off the court.”

Castro’s father, Steve, was also vital in her enjoyment of the game. “My dad was my main reason for playing the sport, so I’d say he was my family inspiration, but Steph[en] Curry was my inspiration for the sole fact that he can shoot, which is exactly what I do,” she said.

 

Rick’s Sports Corner: Katie Treadway, Burbank High’s Two-Sport Standout

By Rick Assad

Playing one varsity sport at a high level can be an extremely daunting task, so toiling at two, by definition, is twice as hard.

For three years, Katie Treadway was a standout softball and volleyball player at Burbank High.

So just how difficult was it for Treadway, who will attend the University of Oregon and major in human physiology, to compete in both sports?

Katie Treadway was a potent outside hitter for the Bulldogs and a floor leader. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“I’ve played softball since I was four, so I knew I would play softball for sure,” she said. “I played volleyball for only three years before high school, but I loved the sport so much I knew I had to play. There were times when it was difficult managing two sports and not having much off-time in between each.”

Treadway went on: “At the end of each volleyball season, I would be on the field by the next week; however, I am very glad I chose to play both sports because I met really great girls that soon became my best friends and I truly loved being on the court and on the field,” she said. “So although it was difficult at times, it was worth it.”

Like so many seniors, Treadway was hoping to cap off her prep career in style, but the spring sports were wiped out because of COVID-19.

The Bulldogs did play eight games, going 4-3-1 and 1-1 in the Pacific League before the season was halted.

At the plate, Katie Treadway was a dependable and feared hitter. (Photo courtesy Katie Treadway)

“I was very devastated when I heard our season got canceled,” said Treadway, a shortstop and outfielder who batted .279 across 59 career games and was named All-League first-team as a sophomore and second-team as a freshman. “I came back to play my senior year because I missed the sport, so it was heartbreaking for me to hear I couldn’t fulfill that.”

Treadway continued: “I feel sad for myself and my fellow seniors that we couldn’t finish our last year of playing ball, but I am thankful for the new players that I got to meet and to have been coached shortly by some great coaches,” she said.

Reflecting on her career, does Treadway, who made All-League second-team while playing outside hitter as a senior on the volleyball team after finishing with 192 kills and 238 digs, feel pleased with how it went?

“I am satisfied with how my high school athletic career progressed,” she said. “I think I was given great opportunities in both sports to embrace my potential. Throughout my years, I was grateful to have been taught by coaches that truly wanted me to succeed, so I think it helped me become more confident in both sports. I was able to learn a lot about both games, which I will cherish in my life.”

Katie Treadway will attend the University of Oregon and major in human physiology. (Photo courtesy Katie Treadway)

There were highs and some lows, but was it worth the effort?

“I don’t think I would change anything if I got to do it all over again,” Treadway said. “Every bad game that I had was a lesson for me and every good game gave me the drive to want to win more. I truly loved my experience in both sports and every win or loss was important in my growth as a player.”

Which sport did Treadway feel was her best?

“I think I was a better softball player because I knew the sport better,” she said. “Although I was able to learn a lot about volleyball over the years I played, I think I was a smarter player in softball and knew what to do in certain situations. I feel like I could execute better in softball and had a better range of skill throughout.”

What will Treadway remember about her time on the field and on the court?

“When I look back at my athletic career, I’m most proud of always giving 100 percent effort,” she said. “Even if I wasn’t having the best game, I always knew I couldn’t let up or let my teammates down. I don’t regret any games because I knew that I tried my best for myself and my teammates and I am very proud of that and playing every game like it’s my last.”

A sure-handed shortstop, Katie Treadway also played in the outfield. (Photo courtesy Katie Treadway)

Treadway was also versatile which made her adapt to any situation.

“I think my best personal traits were being open-minded,” she noted. “If my coach put me somewhere on the court or field that wasn’t as normal, I went with it and did my best because I knew that they had the best intentions for the team. I also think I’m able to connect with players easily to understand them better and create good relationships throughout the team.”

Though different, Treadway said that volleyball and softball are alike in a few respects.

“I think volleyball and softball are similar in the amount of attention you give it,” she said. “If you put in the work, you will see results. Both sports require dedication and the strength to be able to learn from your failures and come back the next day even stronger.”

Katie Treadway mastered two sports and gave everything she had, including the classroom. (Photo courtesy Katie Treadway)

Treadway added: “Both sports require a lot of focus on goals for yourself and your teammates,” she pointed out. “Another similarity is the necessity of playing as a team. “We’re only as strong as our weakest link” is very true and important to keep in mind. In volleyball and softball, helping your teammates will help your entire team as well as yourself grow to be a better player.”

What lessons did Treadway learn from participating in athletics?

“Being in sports taught me how to play and interact with different kinds of players,” she said. “It taught me that not everyone thinks the same as me and people have different outlooks on the game and that everyone is important in the game. If one person gets left out, we can’t play.”

Treadway explained further: “Being on teams allowed me to develop better perspectives on each sport and it helped me better myself with their knowledge and watching everyone play with me,” she said. “In short, it made me realize that no one can be left behind on a team because each player is important in their own way to the team’s success.”

Individual and team success are nice, but there are sometimes people in the background that are overlooked. Who was that for Treadway?

“I think the people that helped me most during high school were my parents,” Treadway said. “My parents [Raulie and Theresa] attended every volleyball and softball game. They always wanted me to do the best that I could and supported me in everything, whether it was comforting me after my bad games, celebrating on the good games or even offering me their time to help me put in extra work. Seeing them in the stands every game made me want to make them proud. They were my biggest fans.”

Rick’s Sports Corner: Erick Hernandez, Burroughs Football Player, Turned Coach

Rick Assad

A path can lead in many different directions and sometimes it’s the correct one while other times it just doesn’t work out as well.

Former Burroughs High standout football player, Erick Hernandez, has taken a circuitous route to get to where he is today.

A wide receiver with glue-like hands, a precise pattern runner with deceptive foot speed who caught 80 career passes for over 1,200 yards and accounted for 24 overall touchdowns, Hernandez began his college career in 2016 in Loretto, Pennsylvania, where he played on scholarship for Saint Francis University.

After toiling until 2018 for the Red Flash, who are a member of the NCAA Division I AA Football Championship Subdivision, Hernandez transferred to Humboldt State University, where he played one season on scholarship. Coincidentally it was the last year that the school competed in football.

“I learned a ton in my college experience. I grew in every aspect,” said Hernandez, a three-year varsity starter for Burroughs who was named Offensive Most Valuable Player by the team as a senior in 2015 after hauling in 36 receptions for 532 yards with 13 scores and is now the wide receivers coach for the Indians.

Erick Hernandez (pictured in the middle) was a star wide receiver for the Indians and returned as a coach. (Photo courtesy Erick Hernandez)

“Some may not see my football career after high school as successful, and I don’t disagree,” he went on. “But everything I went through in college, as a player, has led me to who I am, and who I’m trying to be, as a coach.”

Hernandez, who was named All-Pacific League and All-Area twice and was selected the Hall of Fame All-Star Game West squad MVP, explained further: “I had to fall out of love with the game, to find my true love for it through a process of me falling out of love with the game, but with a new perspective through coaching,” he said. “I can easily say that I have nothing but love for football.”

Right now, with COVID-19 still wreaking havoc, getting ready for the upcoming football season has been put on hold.

“The virus has forced me to cancel all off-season workouts indefinitely,” he said. “I have been stuck at home since the order came out. Staying at home wasn’t so bad at first, but I am really hoping to get back out there with the [Burroughs] team for regularly scheduled summer football.”

Wide receivers coach, Erick Hernandez, leads Burroughs onto the field. (Photo courtesy Erick Hernandez)

Hernandez continued: “On the bright side, I have made some great connections with some of the best trainers and coaches in the country, mostly from the collegiate and NFL level,” he noted. “I think this chaotic time has brought a lot of coaches together and created some great opportunities to learn from each other that otherwise would have never existed. Years from now, I think I will look back on this time and see how pivotal it really was for me because in the midst of chaos, I found opportunity.”

Hernandez is grateful to former Burroughs coach Rand Holdren, who stepped down after his second season.

“Working at Burroughs has been great. Things are a lot different than when I was playing there,” he said. “Coach [Holdren] gave me my first opportunity as a coach and I was happy it was Burroughs,” he said. “Burroughs has a special place in my heart and always will. I have a lot of great memories there and this past year I made even more. It has definitely been an experience being the youngest guy in the office and only four years older than most of the kids, but I feel like I fit in.”

An excellent student in high school and college, playing football at the next level proved difficult at times.

“I can’t say I truly enjoyed my college experience,” said Hernandez, who helped lead the Indians to the CIF Southern Section playoffs twice, losing in the first round as a sophomore and the second round as a senior. “I am definitely grateful for it, but I don’t think I took full advantage of it.”

Does Hernandez have any regrets? “I think there were definitely points where I wish I had done things differently, but looking back now, I wouldn’t change anything,” he said. “I honestly believe everything I went through as a player has set me up to be a great coach. The successes and failures and everything in between has given me a great perspective as a person and as a coach.”

Hernandez acknowledged the difference between playing high school and college football.

“It’s much harder than high school, especially at that high of a level, so it is easy to get lost in the shuffle,” he said. “There are definitely more reasons, but at the end of the day, I put the blame on myself and take responsibility for my successes and failures alike.”

Though Hernandez was hoping to accomplish more at the college level, it’s not as though he and the team didn’t shine.

“It would have to be winning the [Northeast] conference title and getting a ring my freshman year of college,” Hernandez said of his career highlight. “That was the first time in school history that the football team won a Division I AA conference championship.”

Hernandez said some words of wisdom during his last year playing college football has been the most helpful.

“Some advice that I got from Humboldt State wide receivers coach, Josh Irvin, was “remember why you started” and that sticks out to me till this day,” he said. “I think a lot of us lose sight of why we start something in the first place and that’s why we fail sometimes.”

Hernandez then added: “And sometimes we start things for the wrong reasons, so looking back and remembering why we decided to start something in the first place gives us perspective and can either give us a sign to keep going or move on,” he said.

Though young, Hernandez is well on his way in his chosen field. “My short term goal is that I want to get into coaching as soon as I finish my Business Marketing degree at CSUN,” he said. “Long term, I think I could be happy as a position coach at the college level, but I believe I am capable of much more; so I do plan to reach my full potential and if it leads me to a coordinator or head coaching job, then I would fully embrace that.”

Rick’s Sports Corner: Burbank High’s Jakob Duarte, A Triple Threat

By Rick Assad

There aren’t too many things that Jakob Duarte can’t handle on a baseball field or for that matter in a classroom.

A gifted defensive third baseman for Burbank High, the senior right-handed hitter was equally deft on the pitcher’s mound as cracking open a book and turning out A-plus work.

Though he doesn’t pitch as much and his season has come to an end because of the COVID-19 pandemic, does he prefer being a position player or a hurler?

Jakob Duarte takes a big swing. The Burbank High third baseman will attend Cornell University. (Photo courtesy Jakob Duarte)

“I don’t think one was necessarily more fun than the other,” said Duarte, an honor student who will attend Cornell University where he’ll major in applied mathematics. “I really enjoyed both while playing them equally. Unfortunately due to repeated injuries, pitching just became too painful to continue, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to do it during the first two years primarily.”

Duarte, who also played first base, said that he would love to play baseball at Cornell, and that sometimes he thought too much on the mound.

“I think the most difficult thing for me as a pitcher was the mental aspect,” he said. “I am a very big overthinker and perfectionist, which made pitching difficult at times, as you have to learn to move on quickly.”

Bob Hart, the longtime Burbank coach, was pleased to have Duarte in his program.

Burbank High’s Jakob Duarte was a dual threat on the diamond and an honor student. (Photo courtesy Jakob Duarte).

“Jakob is a super-bright, hard-working, high-character, student-athlete,” he said. “He is one of our captains and is definitely someone for younger players to look up to and aspire to be like.”

It seems that athletic ability and scholarship runs in Duarte’s family.

His older sister, Julia, is a former Bulldog softball player who played for the University of Pennsylvania, and like so many others, as a senior, had her season halted.

Duarte was batting .238 with two runs batted in across seven games for the Bulldogs, who were 3-4 and 0-2 in the Pacific League this season.

Was playing prep baseball what Duarte, who hit .245 with 13 RBIs and six doubles in 21 games as a junior, what he expected?

“Playing high school baseball was definitely what I thought it was going to be,” he shared. “I was extremely excited about the opportunity to play in the BHS program during my eighth grade year. I knew it was going to be a lot more demanding in terms of my devotion to conditioning, practices and individual work, but I knew I was ready for that challenge.”

It’s been said and it’s likely true, that baseball is the toughest sport to master. Has Duarte, who started playing on the varsity as a sophomore, found this to be the case?

“In my opinion, baseball is the most difficult sport to play because of how smart you have to be to play it,” Duarte said. “Baseball requires acute mental focus and adaptability as well as physical ability, where in other sports you can beat someone by brute strength. In baseball, no two plays are ever the same, so you have to be ready to adapt to any situation on the field and at the plate.”

Duarte is highly analytical which helped him differentiate between offense and defense.

Duarte and the Bulldogs face city rival Burroughs. (Photo courtesy Jakob Duarte)

How would Duarte break the two down? “I think there’s a different mindset offensively versus defensively,” he noted. “At the plate, especially after I had matured more during my junior and senior year, I was always thinking “attack.” I was constantly trying to hunt for a pitch to hit.”

Duarte clarified this thought. “When playing good teams like the Arcadia’s and Crescenta Valley’s of the Pacific League, you have to be prepared to jump on a good pitch to hit, as it might be the only hittable pitch you get during an at-bat,” he said.

Duarte then defined how he approached defense.

“On the field, I was always thinking of what I was going to do with the ball dependent upon the situation at hand,” he said.

A dependable hitter who could hit for power, Duarte held his own in clutch situations against the top-tier teams in the league.

“Off the top of my head, I immediately think of the walk-off win against Burroughs last year and also beating them twice,” Duarte said of the games that stood out. “I also think beating CV for the first time in nearly a decade in walk-off fashion was also a very special moment for me and the team.”

Athletics are often teaching tools. Were they for Duarte? “All of the most valuable lessons I have learned in life are rooted in baseball in some way,” he said. “I have played this game nearly my entire life and along the way have learned to hold myself accountable to my own mistakes, to lead by example, and most importantly, I’ve learned how to learn from my own failures.”

Slumps are something that baseball players have to live with. How did Duarte handle his?

“Many of my slumps stemmed from me being too much of an overthinker,” he admitted. “I’ve always liked to think of success as a measure of confidence in baseball and when you’re not confident, it’s nearly impossible to succeed at the plate. As a younger player, I let my failure eat me up at times and worried about what others thought about my performance; however, as I’ve matured as a player, I learned to reflect upon my failures and fix what went wrong. If I ever felt like something was mechanically wrong with my swing, I would go and hit in the cage off the tee or the machine and take a few buckets worth of swings.”

Having succeeded as a baseball player and a student, what advice would he offer to someone interested in playing hardball.

“If someone wants to try out for the team, I would wholeheartedly encourage them to,” Duarte said. “I think the guys on the team would agree when I say that playing in the program has been an experience of a lifetime, leading to a lot of personal and athletic growth. I have met some of my best friends and made some of my best memories during the last four years. Playing baseball at BHS is a special opportunity that you simply cannot miss out on.”

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.

Burroughs Girls Hoops Post 59-26 Win Against Visiting Burbank

By Rick Assad

It was the final Pacific League game on the calendar for host Burroughs High and longtime rival Burbank on Thursday night.

Like the first time these two girls’ basketball programs met, the Indians were too deep and talented and claimed a 59-26 decision behind a swarming full-court press and junior center/power forward Faith Boulanger’s game-best 26 points.

Ivana Razov dribbling the ball against Erika Montoya. The Indians won 59-26 in the Pacific League finale. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

The Indians finished second in league behind Pasadena and will now await this weekend’s CIF Southern Section playoff pairings.

“We just want play hard. Our key has been our defensive aggressiveness,” Burroughs coach Vicky Oganyan said. “We’re definitely playing better basketball right now and our team has improved and I’ve gotta be proud of that. That’s the goal to see improvement in the team and carry that into the playoffs.”

Oganyan then added: “Moving the ball. Getting good shots. Getting the right people with the ball,” she noted of the offense. “Just making open shots. Finding each other and playing together as a team. When we play together as a team, usually we get good shots.”

Boulanger, who sank two of her five three-pointers in the first quarter, began by scoring 13 points in the first period as Burroughs (22-6 and 12-2 in league) took a 24-5 lead.

The press by Burroughs was relentless as it forced numerous Burbank turnovers. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Boulanger, who had seven steals, had help in junior power forward Kayla Wrobel, who tallied seven of her 19 points in the initial frame.

Boulanger’s first three-pointer came with 1:22 left and handed the Indians (22 of 59 for 37.2 percent) a 20-5 advantage.

The points kept coming in the second quarter for the Indians as Boulanger, who hit a three-pointer and had seven points along with Wrobel, who grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, tossed in eight points.

Senior shooting guard Bri Castro had two three-pointers and all of her points at halftime for the Bulldogs (10-18 and 3-11 in league), who trailed 35-11 and will miss the postseason after finishing tied for sixth in the league.

Boulanger came out and nailed a pair of three-pointers in the third period while Wrobel canned two baskets as the Indians extended their advantage to 51-13 heading into the fourth quarter.

Rachel Little is being guarded by Christina Ohanians. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

With such a commanding lead, Oganyan rested her starters in the fourth quarter.

Oganyan began taking out her starters late in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs (eight of 31 for 25.8 percent) took advantage and outscored the hosts 13-8 in the fourth quarter as sophomore point guard Alle Tarvirdi scored six of her team-high nine points.

“The season comes to an end, but we continue to build,” first-year Burbank coach Jett Del Mundo said. “This senior class helped define how we grow. Now we have seven veterans ready to keep moving forward. We will take a moment to honor all of the accomplishments of the 2020 season. But look to the next chapter in our young program.”

Sophomore shooting guard Noor Fahs contributed two points, but also added eight caroms and five steals for the Indians.

Sophomore shooting guard Sarai Waddell canned a trey for Burroughs, while junior shooting guard Dyani Del Castillo, junior center Sydney Martin, junior point guard Lauren Lucas and freshman point guard Rachel Little, all scored two points and sophomore point guard Stephanie Wilson added one point.

Burbank sophomore guard Christina Ohanians finished with three points. Senior power forward Adriana Cabrera, sophomore small forward Emily Megerdichian, sophomore center Tabitha Cruz and freshman power forward Karen Casillas, all contributed two points for the Bulldogs.

Burroughs Girls Water Polo Cruise To 9-2 Decision Over Burbank

By Rick Assad

An early first quarter drought by both host Burbank High and rival Burroughs was followed by a lopsided second half as the Indians outscored the Bulldogs 6-1 and waltzed to a 9-2 Pacific League girls’ water polo win on Wednesday afternoon.

With the victory by Burroughs, it improved to 16-5 overall and 4-2 in league action, while Burbank is 10-8 in all matches and 2-4 in league.

Burroughs goalie Emanuella Nathan allowed only two goals to Burbank in a 9-2 win. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burroughs senior goalie Emanuella Nathan, who will be playing for the University of the Pacific, had a stellar outing, savings numerous attempts in spectacular fashion.

Burbank junior goaltender Jenny Stepanyan also played well, especially in the first quarter when she blanked the Indians.

“We started out a little slow. It took us a little bit to get our rhythm down and get going,” Burroughs coach Jacob Cook said. “It took the first quarter to get our bearing and then we made it happen. And then we started putting the ball away and doing what we needed to do.”

Three of the match-best five goals that sophomore Clarissa Robles scored came in the second half.

Julie Kim scored Burbank’s only goals. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

A 14-foot attempt by Robles with 1:53 left in the third quarter extended the Indians’ advantage to 5-1.

When Robles canned a five-meter penalty shot with 20 seconds left on the ticker, Burroughs surged ahead 6-1 in the third period.

Robles tacked on another five-meter penalty attempt with 5:35 left in the fourth period as Burroughs drifted in front 8-2.

A five-meter penalty shot by Robles with 5:30 left in the second frame made it 1-0 and a 14-footer by Robles pushed the lead to 3-1 as 49 seconds remained before halftime.

Burroughs freshman Nancy Baylor accounted for two goals and occurred with 4:20 showing in the third stanza on an eight-footer for a 4-1 cushion and with 2:21 remaining in the match that made it 9-2.

Sophomore Emily Callahan’s goal from 14 feet and 3:10 left on the clock pushed the Indians’ lead to 2-1.

Charlotte Jennings (No. 20) is being guarded by Anasheh Abedian. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“I think it was beautiful defense in the first half for my team, but then they fizzled out. They lost their juice. Lost their energy,” Burbank coach Melani Aghazarian said. “Even though they [Burroughs] were only up by two goals, the girls let it get to their head and they got discouraged.”

The Bulldogs committed several costly shot-clock violations.

“We have to work on being more aware,” Aghazarian said. “The clock is a big thing in water polo. It’s going to take time. We’re rebuilding. I’m proud of them for what they did in the first half.”

Aghazarian then added: “I hope next year we really step it up and hopefully in the league tournament,” she said.

Aghazarian, the first-year coach, isn’t discouraged and envisions brighter days ahead. “It’s a rough score but I’m just trying to get the girls competitive and ready for the tournament,” she noted.

Burbank senior Sera Shabhazian, who three days prior accidentally slammed her thumb in a car door, has been around the program for years and is one of the Bulldogs’ most-skilled players.

Burbank’s Galia Hovsepian is ready to shoot. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“Today wasn’t my best because of my thumb. I couldn’t play my best and I feel guilty. I sprained my thumb, so I just tried my best,” she said. “This year coach Mel has taught us a lot. Because I want to move on I’m taking a lot of practice and I want to play at LAVC (Los Angeles Valley College). But we’ve improved a lot.”

Junior Angelina Lee’s 14-footer found the back of the net with 6:10 remaining on the clock in the fourth quarter as the Indians led 7-2.

Sophomore Julie Kim scored two goals for the Bulldogs as she tossed in a 12-footer with 4:21 left in the second period that evened it at 1-1 and added a 16-footer with 6:31 remaining in the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs drew within 6-2.