Tag Archives: Softball

Rick’s Sports Corner: Emily Seidel, Softball Sensation, Prep, College Coach

By Rick Assad

One of the last songs that The Beatles recorded was “The Long And Winding Road,” which was the group’s final No. 1 hit in the United States.

Written by Paul McCartney, but credited to John Lennon and McCartney, in it McCartney reflects about his own life and the fact the band was coming to an end.

This classic tune could be Emily Seidel’s theme song after what the Burbank native has been through.

Seidel was a four-year starter for Village Christian School, mostly as a pitcher who posted a 1.61 earned-run average over her decorated career.

Burbank resident and Village Christian School star, Emily Seidel, making contact as a hitter for Mt. San Antonio College. (Photo courtesy Emily Seidel)

Seidel was named All-CIF, Cal-High All-State, was a two-time Olympic League Most Valuable Player, three-time All-League and helped the Crusaders make the CIF Southern Section playoffs four times, including reaching the semifinals as a sophomore and junior and the quarterfinals as a freshman.

After one year at the University of Nevada Reno, Seidel, who also played third base, transferred to Mt. San Antonio College where the right-hander went 27-4 across 187 innings with 251 strikeouts and had a 1.83 ERA.

Seidel, who was selected Cal Segundo Tournament MVP in 2011 as a senior, capped her collegiate experience at Abilene Christian University, where she graduated in 2015 with a bachelor of science degree in Convergence Journalism after working two years on the school newspaper as a sportswriter and copy editor.

Seidel was an assistant coach for former Burbank High softball coach, Mike Delaney and became an assistant coach at Los Angeles Mission College before heading to New York, where she is currently an assistant coach for the Hamilton College women’s softball team, which is a Division III program.

Emily Seidel (second from right), a coach for former Burbank High coach Mike Delaney, shares a fun moment with some of the players. (Photo courtesy Emily Seidel)

“I made my verbal commitment to play for UNR when I was a junior in high school and I signed my National Letter of Intent in November of my senior year,” said Seidel, who is halfway through a master’s degree in Kinesiology. “I ended up leaving because it wasn’t the best fit for me. When I committed, it was a Top 25 program and seemed like the best offer I could ask for, so I jumped on it.”

Looking back, Seidel wishes she hadn’t.

“If I could go back, I’d tell myself to do some more research and wait for other schools who may have recruited me,” she said. “It would have been beneficial for me to weigh my options and find a better fit for myself.”

Seidel, a four-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Academic, a two-time NFCA All-Area and two-time NFCA All-Region, said that playing at three colleges has been helpful.

“I’d say that I’m a better coach because I had such an atypical experience,” she said. “I believe I’m more empathetic and prepared to talk to recruits and players because I’ve been through everything an NCAA athlete can go through and working under so many different types of coaches taught me a lot about the kind of coach I want to be.”

Emily Seidel and her teammates at Abilene Christian University, huddle up to discuss strategy. (Photo courtesy Emily Seidel)

Being on the softball field was Seidel’s refuge.

“I would describe myself as an athlete as having a high softball IQ. I know the game and I know the strategy,” she said. “I couldn’t steal many bases, but in any situation, I could tell you what both the offense and defense were doing.”

Seidel, who holds the Village Christian School strikeout record of 29 in a tournament no-hitter as a sophomore, continued: “I was very competitive and focused during games, but I think my best traits were my leadership and my awareness,” she noted. “I also worked really hard to bring my best for my teammates every time we touched the field.”

When COVID-19 struck, Seidel was in New York.

“Our entire season was canceled before we got to play any games,” she said. “We were all devastated because we were only two days away from our Spring Break trip to Florida for our first games. The coaching staff managed to put together an intrasquad Senior Day game for our seniors the day before students had to leave campus. Now we are working on virtual recruiting until in-person events begin again and our campus reopens.”

Delaney was impressed with Seidel. “As a player, Emily set goals and worked hard to achieve them,” he pointed out. “She would stay after practice or come in over the summer to hit, condition and work on pitch mechanics. But most of all, she was a great teammate.”

Emily Seidel and one of her mentors, Mike Delaney, during a special moment. (Photo courtesy Emily Seidel)

Knowing what type of person Seidel is, Delaney jumped at the chance to put her on his staff.

“We had spent some of middle school and all of high school talking softball strategy, pitch count philosophy and she showed a general interest in learning and teaching,” he said. “Her senior season, she asked me not to retire from coaching so that she could coach with me after she graduated college.”

Delaney added: “I thought she was not really serious, but when she did graduate she called and asked,” he said. “Since she already understood what my philosophies were and how I coached, it was a no brainer. She took to coaching with the same determination and drive she had as a player.”

No one succeeds in a vacuum, and as such, Seidel wanted to thank those who were most influential and helpful during her long and winding road.

“I have about 10 “parents” who have been with me the whole way and are there to encourage me throughout my coaching career,” she said. “I would say those I have leaned on are my parents [George and Susan], Mike and Lydia Delaney, Kris and Jenny Jones, Chuck and Laura Phillips and John and Mary Stansbury.”

Relatively new to coaching, Seidel didn’t think it was in her future. “Coaching is not something I always wanted to do. We are told as softball players that college softball is as far as we get to go since we have such a small professional league, so we are always preparing ourselves for the real world,” she said. “I studied journalism in college and wanted to be a sportswriter, but my time coaching at BHS was the first time I realized I could still have a career in softball.”

Seidel now has her own softball philosophy. “Working with Mike and the other coaches at BHS was a terrific experience,” she said. “I had three great mentors with tons of experience who helped me find my own coaching style and supported me as I grew.”

Seidel went on: “Because our culture was built around respect and love of the game, I believe we gave ourselves and our players a great experience and it made me want to build my career around coaching because I found it so rewarding,” she said.

Rick’s Sports Corner: Julia Duarte’s Incredible Softball Ride

By Rick Assad

Athletes hardly ever think about getting injured, and even if they do, injuries happen to other people.

Julia Duarte had a wildly productive softball career at Burbank High, but fell short of duplicating those incredible feats as a member of the University of Pennsylvania women’s softball team.

For much of the time, Duarte was sidelined because of an assortment of injuries that included two concussions, two herniated discs in her back, a sprained ankle and a sprained UCL [ulnar collateral ligament].

“I think that getting hurt my freshman year was difficult,” said Duarte, a four-year starter with the Bulldogs as a first baseman/third baseman, who was named All-Pacific League first team three times and second team once, was a four-time Scholar-Athlete and Female Athlete of the Year as a senior.

Burbank took the Pacific League title three straight seasons (2013-2015) and made the CIF Southern Section playoffs four times.

Julia Duarte (second from left) is a former Burbank High softball standout and recent graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. (Photo courtesy Julia Duarte)

“I had never really had to be on the sidelines before and really learned the meaning of being a teammate,” Duarte said.

Duarte, a recent college graduate who earned a bachelor of science degree in Economics with a concentration in Finance from the Wharton Business School, continued: “Although I was injured for the duration of my career and knew that a majority of my role would be from the sidelines, I always tried to pick up my teammates whenever I could whether it be by offering advice, keeping score or helping with drills I could no longer participate in,” she said.

Duarte, who will begin her professional career in September as an investment banking analyst for Cowen & Company in its Healthcare group in New York City, wanted to return to the field.

“I tried to do physical therapy and cortisone shots for my back injury, which was the one that kept me out. I recovered from my concussions after a few months for each one, but the injury never really healed. I was very immobile my freshman year, but every year got a little bit better,” she said. “Softball is a very repetitive sport and I found that I didn’t have the range of motion to field anymore. I tried to just hit [designated hitter] my senior year and although it was still painful, I was able to get through what season we had before COVID-19 sent us home for the first time in my career, as I was unable to play through a complete season my other three seasons.”

Duarte was devastated that the pandemic halted her career. “Sadly, COVID-19 cut our season short and the in-person academic year at Penn was canceled the day that we came back to Philadelphia from our week-long tournament that we had in Orlando, Florida (March 11),” she said. “We had the opportunity to play games in Virginia and Florida before the season was canceled, but we did not get to play any Ivy League games.”

Julia Duarte in her cap and gown after graduating from college. (Photo courtesy Julia Duarte)

Does Duarte ever look back and wonder how it would have gone minus the injuries?

“It is hard to say how I would have done had I not been injured, but I don’t like to ponder that,” she said. “I choose to focus on my experience at Penn as a whole and how I have come out a stronger person because of my experience. I think that my situation was unique and not a lot of people can say that they have gone through what I did, which gives me a different perspective on what it is like to be a Division I athlete.”

Duarte has no second thoughts about her time at Penn.

“Although my softball career didn’t go as intended, I do not have regrets given that the situation was out of my control,” she said. “I think that my position really taught me perseverance and the meaning of being a teammate. I think I would have had more regrets if I would have quit or stopped trying to play.”

So Duarte’s best times on the softball field occurred in high school. “I would say that just given my situation at Penn, I do cherish my moments that I had on the field at Burbank,” she said. “We were a really good and a scrappy team and had a level of determination and intensity that I miss.”

Duarte pointed at the city rivalry. “I don’t think I have been in such an intense game since Burbank-Burroughs,” she said. “Although I miss softball and remember specific games and plays, I think that Burbank also gave me some of my best friends. I am still close to both Lily Winn and Caitlyn Brooks, who were my best friends and teammates until they left for college after my junior year. But I also think that my experiences at Penn were very valuable – I learned a lot about myself through the process and wouldn’t have traded my experience.”

The Quakers’ women’s softball team with the Philadelphia skyline in the background. (Photo courtesy Julia Duarte)

One game between host Burbank and Burroughs during Duarte’s sophomore year is etched in stone.

“We rallied hard in that game, coming back from a few run deficit to win in a walk-off by Lily [Winn] in extra innings,” Duarte said. “The team had such incredible energy and determination to win that game. I think that the Burbank-Burroughs games in general were my favorite just because of the hype that surrounded the game.”

Mike Delaney, the former Burbank softball coach, knew that he had a special person and player in Duarte.

“Julia was an excellent role model both in the classroom and on the field,” he said. “Julia was a player you could count on to show up, work hard and compete daily. She was confident in her ability and was one of a handful of players that I’ve coached that really understood the mental approach to the game and could make game adjustments to the situations she was facing.”

Delaney added: “She won a couple of big games for us by making adjustments and trusting her talent,” he said.

Julia Duarte (far right) and her Bulldog teammates slap hands after a win. (Photo courtesy Julia Duarte)

It’s not as though Duarte doesn’t  have any fond memories of her time at Penn.

“Although I wasn’t in the lineup for the game, I think that our last game of this season against ranked, the University of Florida, was one of the most memorable of my career,” she said. “We went in as the underdogs, but really held our own and only lost 3-1, although we had bases loaded a few times and had the opportunities to take that game from them.”

Duarte continued: “I think that was proof of how strong our team was this year and how much chemistry we had,” she noted. “I wish that we would have gotten the opportunity to show that in Ivy League play, but our season was canceled less than a week from our league opener against Yale.”

The Quakers failed to make the NCAA tournament during Duarte’s tenure there.

Still, Duarte cherishes her time as an athlete. “I think that down the line I won’t remember the specific plays or scores of the games as much as I remember being with my friends and teammates both on and off the field,” she said. “I know that I have made life-long friends at Burbank and Penn. I think that being a part of a team is something really special and that all the hard work and grueling practices makes a special bond.”

Rick’s Sports Corner: Maddie Riggs, UC Irvine’s Rising Golf Star

By Rick Assad

Every day offers an opportunity to make choices. Most of the time they are fairly mundane like what to have for breakfast, lunch or dinner or what to wear that day.

Sometimes they are more complicated and demand deeper thought because they are more important.

In the case of Maddie Riggs, she had to choose whether to play a sport she loved or switch to another upon entering college.

This was a real dilemma because Riggs was a gifted soccer player for four seasons at Burroughs High, leading the Indians in scoring and assists during her junior and senior years and was voted All-Area first-team both seasons.

“Maddie was tenacious as a soccer player,” said her father, Brady Riggs, who is the Burroughs girls’ soccer coach. “She was the consummate leader, always training at full speed, playing through injuries and demanding that level of commitment from her teammates.”

But Riggs also excelled on the Indians’ golf team across four seasons, earning All-Area first-team as a senior. For good measure, Riggs was a member of the softball squad as a freshman.

Maddie Riggs is entering her third season on the UC Irvine women’s golf team. (Photo courtesy Maddie Riggs)

So when Riggs, the Mike Torres Award winner which is given to the most outstanding two-sport female athlete at Burroughs, stepped foot onto the campus of the University of California Irvine, she had a weighty choice to make.

Riggs, who redshirted her freshman year, 2017-2018, opted to play golf and has flourished.

“In high school, soccer was my passion,” she said. “I had played soccer at a high level since I was eight years old and dedicated my entire life to the game.”

Riggs went on: “After I got a severe concussion my sophomore year I realized my soccer career would have to end eventually,” she said. “That was when I shifted my focus to college golf. I still love the beautiful game, but my future and my passion now is in golf.”

With the world on pause because of COVID-19, Riggs has been impacted.

“The safety of my family and I has been the priority so my time spent at golf has decreased dramatically,” she noted. “I have been putting on a mat in my room, hitting into a net in my backyard and working out consistently. Once courses opened a few weeks ago, I have practiced at the range, but haven’t played much golf. I’m trying to be as prepared as possible for the Western Amateur in Illinois at the end of July, which I will play in if it is safe to travel.”

Riggs, who tries to emulate the competitive attitude of Danielle Kang, a three-time winner on the LPGA tour including the Women’s PGA Championship in 2017, is entering her third season on the Anteaters’ team.

“I love golf because all the responsibility is on me. What attracts me most is I do not have to rely on teammates for success,” said Riggs, a Public Health Policy major who shot a career-best, 1-under par 71 at the Rebel Beach Tournament and finished a career-best, in which she tied for 10th place in the Gold Rush tourney hosted by Cal State Long Beach. “My success is determined by how much effort I put in, not how hard the rest of my team is working.”

Coincidentally, Maddie’s father, a PGA Top 100 Teacher, has also had a hand in her success at UCI.

A standout on the Burroughs High girls’ soccer team, Maddie Riggs is shown in a match versus Burbank. (Photo courtesy Maddie Riggs)

“My role is twofold,” he said. “First as her golf instructor teaching her all the technical aspects of the game and making adjustments to her mechanics as necessary.”

Riggs added: “That has now evolved into becoming her golf coach, supervising her practice sessions, helping her with strategy and learning the subtle nuances of playing on the highest level,” he said.

Riggs, a National Golf Coaches Association All-American Scholar, said her father’s experience and guidance has been a blessing.

“Having my dad as a coach is special to me. We have always had a great father-daughter relationship in sports and to have a coach who knows my golf game and me as a person better than anyone is a huge advantage,” she said.

Golf is demanding and exacting, but Riggs has been able to come out ahead. “Golf is a tough sport to master because it is challenging both technically and mentally,” she said. “You can have great technique, but you have to learn how to score which takes experience during competitive rounds.”

Maddie Riggs talking with her father, Brady, the Burroughs’ soccer coach and a Top 100 PGA Teacher. (Photo courtesy Maddie Riggs)

How does Riggs, who took golf seriously at age 16, attack a hole?

“I am a conservative player and I base my decisions on percentages,” she said. “For example, each club has a specific dispersion, so I aim based on how wide my miss is instead of going directly at the flags.”

What’s the one thing that Riggs can lean on at the course?

“The best part of my game is my ability to trust my shot shape and commit to intelligent targets,” she said. “I play a fade, so the ball curves left to right and it is consistent with all my clubs.”

Riggs has been able to play well because she isn’t concerned with the other players.

“Chasing the leader adds pressure, but you cannot control how they are going to play so you have to focus on what you can control which is the next shot,” she said.

Riggs hasn’t played in front too often, but thinks that there’s pressure.

“I haven’t been in the lead very often, but I think it would be easier,” she explained. “As the leader, the tournament is yours to lose or win instead of coming from behind which requires other players to not play as well.”

Golf is a game of patience, which Riggs has. “One trait that makes me excel at golf is the mantra my dad has told me since I was little: “the only thing you can control is your effort and your attitude.” I apply this to all aspects of my life, but it is especially valuable in golf.”

Riggs continued: “I put all my effort into every round of golf regardless of if I am having a good day,” she said. “And it is even more important to have a good attitude on the course when you’re struggling. I never give up on a round and I think that mentality of grinding gives me a competitive edge in golf. I have to give soccer some credit because regardless of the score during a game, you never give up and that’s what I do in golf.”

Though lofty, Riggs in time would like to join the LPGA tour. “I believe that I can play on tour. I have only been playing highly competitive golf for a short amount of time and feel I have not reached my full potential yet,” she said. “I know that I have the work ethic and technical ability to play on tour. I just need more experience in competition.”

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.”

Doug Nicol Back As Burroughs Softball Coach

By Rick Assad

Maybe some things are just meant to be and that includes Doug Nicol being named the Burroughs High softball coach after Wes Tanigawa resigned the position.

This will be Nicol’s second stint as the Indians’ softball coach after serving seven successful seasons in the same capacity.

“I got a few phone calls to see if I was interested in coming back,” said Nicol, who graduated from Burroughs in 1982. “I told them to give me a few days so that I can think about it for a day or two.”

Nicol went on: “I spoke to my wife and my son and daughter and they both said that I should take it.”

Doug Nicol has returned to coach the Burroughs softball team. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Nicol said he was fully convinced when he went to a recent scrimmage and liked what he saw.

“This is a really good group of kids,” he said. “It sparked my interest.”

After coaching the Indians from 2010 until 2016, Nicol said he wanted to be there and support his children in their sporting and collegiate educational endeavors.

Nicol, who guided the Indians to four Pacific League titles that included a CIF Southern Section semifinal appearance in 2016 and a quarterfinal showing in 2015, stepped down in order to spend more time with his family.

But now that his daughter and son are older, he believed, with their encouragement along with his wife, the time was right to return.

“Three weeks ago I wasn’t looking to coach,” he said. “There was no clue that I would, so this is a total shock. But I’m glad. I love Burroughs.”

Nicol, who teaches at Muir Middle School in Burbank and has been a longtime travel ball coach, added: “I’ve been around them [the team] about a week and a half and they’re incredible,” he said.

Nicol’s immediate goal is to instill self-esteem and worth in being on the softball team. “I want to build a culture and have pride,” he said. “It takes time and it doesn’t happen overnight.”

The overwhelming favorite to capture the league banner is perennial power Crescenta Valley, which is led by All-CIF Southern Section pitcher Dee Dee Hernandez.

“There’s no doubt that CV is the team to beat,” Nicol said. “They won the CIF title last year and they’re going to be good this year. I think Arcadia, Burroughs and Burbank will be right there.”

Burroughs has played four nonleague games this season, losing to Camarillo 7-0, defeating host Golden Valley 13-0, falling to Notre Dame 4-0 and beating West Ranch 10-2.

The Indians commence league action on March 3 versus Glendale and will travel to Burbank on March 19 and then host the Bulldogs on April 30.

Caitlyn Brooks, Notre Dame Graduate, Caps College Career In Style

By Rick Assad

 

There are certain qualities or assets that one needs in order to be successful in life and in sports.

In the case of athletics, physical and mental gifts are essential and they go a long way. But even if one possesses these attributes, it’s also helpful, and perhaps necessary, to put in the time and hard work in order to get better.

For Caitlyn Brooks, who played four seasons on the University of Notre Dame women’s softball team and before that was a highly-decorated standout on the Burbank High softball squad, had all three in her tool box, but like the very best, always wanted to improve.

Caitlyn Brooks swinging from her heels. The former Burbank High star hit 48 homers over her career at Notre Dame. It’s tied for the second-most all-time.

“Caitlyn put in a lot of hard work other than just normal practices,” said Mike Delaney, who was the Bulldogs softball coach who oversaw Brooks during her tenure at Burbank which began in 2012 and ended in 2015. “Extra hitting lessons and pitching lessons weekly.”

Delaney, who recently stepped down from that post, added: “She had a great work ethic and was always quick to praise her teammates,” he said. “She loved the individual matchups. Pitcher versus pitcher. Pitcher versus batter. Caitlyn understood her swing and pitching motion extremely well.”

There is a small percentage of people talented enough to play sports for the Fighting Irish. What was that experience like?

“Being at Notre Dame exceeded my expectations for sure,” said Brooks, who capped off her college career by being named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year in 2019 after breaking the school’s single-season home run record with 20 and leading the team in five offensive categories. “It is such a magical place and I really started to understand and experience that throughout my four years.”

Brooks was also an effective pitcher for the Fighting Irish and before that a stellar hurler for the Bulldogs, where she went 80-17 over a four-year career.

Getting selected ACC Player of the Year had to be an unexpected surprise for Brooks.

“Being named ACC Player of the Year was a total shock to me,” said Brooks, who was also named to the ACC All-Academic team. “I never look at stats and this year I knew I was doing well, but that wasn’t anything I thought that I would achieve. Earning that title was really cool and I remember calling my parents [Shari and Roger] and we all were so excited and cheering. It was also really cool to see all of my teammates excel too and also support me. They are what made it special because this team was so amazing and special.”

How difficult was college compared to high school, both scholastically and athletically? “The hardest part of transitioning was the academics,” said Brooks, who received a bachelor of arts degree in film/cinema and video studies and will work in social media marketing. “For me that was the hardest part of Notre Dame. Softball was the most consistent and smoothest transition.”

What was it like for Brooks, who carved out a staggering 80-17 record with 1,011 strikeouts as a high school hurler, to actually put on the spikes for Notre Dame?

Brooks was selected Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year in 2019 after leading Notre Dame in homers with 20, the most in a single season.

“I was definitely nervous my first time putting on the Irish uniform, but I wanted to compete and that was really exhilarating,” she said. “Once I got my first hit, I felt completely comfortable.”

Brooks said she was at ease from the outset. “Our team is like a family and that starts from the moment you’re introduced when you’re a recruit,” she noted. “I always knew Notre Dame was for me because of the team culture which is cultivated by our amazing coaches. From the moment you first speak to them, you know that they are great coaches and even better people. I felt part of the Irish team as a recruit and from the moment I stepped on campus as a freshman.”

This feeling of security and care begins with Deanna Gumpf, the Notre Dame head coach.

“She is so inspiring and is like a second mom to us all,” said Brooks, who paced the Fighting Irish in homers with nine and runs batted in with 38 as a junior. “I love how direct and passionate she is. She truly wants to see us succeed on and off the field. Notre Dame develops us into great athletes and even better women and that starts at the top by always being an example of excellence and kindness. Coach Gumpf knows us better than we know ourselves sometimes and that is what makes her such an incredible coach and person. She is definitely a role model for me.”

Brooks was a threat in the batter’s box and in the pitcher’s circle at the high school and collegiate level. Which one was more appealing?

“For sure the batter’s box. Being in the box I can fully relax and be laser focused, but have no pressure,” Brooks said. “Or at least I tell myself that there is no pressure. I also know that the girl behind me is going to get it done and having that confidence and support takes all of the pressure off. I found my stride in the box and really loved softball and the game.”

Brooks ended her college career tied for second place all-time with 48 home runs. “Most of it was from this year,” said Brooks of her senior season. “I wasn’t trying to hit the ball out, but I was really focused on my timing, pitch selection and mechanics this season and I had a great result.”

There was a lot of celebrating when Brooks was at the plate. Here Brooks (No. 16) crosses the plate and is congratulated by teammates.

Brooks, who clubbed 21 homers during her final three seasons as a Bulldog, then added: “When it came to pitching, I definitely put too much pressure on myself, but I loved competing. I think my role as a reliever and just come in and do my job on the mound took the pressure off and really let me focus on hitting during the game,” she said.

Brooks said her approach to hitting was vastly different from pitching.

“My main thoughts were to focus on my breath and my approach,” she said. “I watch a lot of film before a game on the pitcher and saw what they threw and adjusted my plan to the pitcher and my strength. Usually I was looking inside and attacking that pitch if it was a strike. In the circle, I would just focus on my routine and breath. I would visualize the pitch when I got my sign and go for it.”

Brooks, who batted .304 with eight homers and 39 RBIs as a sophomore, said even if the team struggled, which was rare, they were always unified.

“I really relied on my teammates and talking it out with the sports psychologist. A lot of athletes benefit from the sports psychologist and it was a resource that is always very encouraged,” Brooks said. “It really helped me with the challenges of softball and life.”

Did one hit or game stand out for Brooks, who batted .335 with a .416 on-base percentage and 55 RBIs, the most-ever by a Notre Dame freshman?

“I think the game that I broke the single-season home run record was huge,” said Brooks, who bashed a team-high 11 homers with a team-best .639 slugging percentage as a freshman. “It was against Pittsburgh, and when I broke the record it was my first collegiate grand slam which was super cool. It also could be the farthest ball that I’ve ever hit.”

Brooks continued: “After that game they gave my mom the ball and having her and my dad there to see it was awesome,” he pointed out. “My team was so pumped for me and seeing them at home plate going crazy is something that I will never forget.”

Did Brooks have targets she wanted to reach? “I set goals with myself and our coaches,” she said. “My plan had more to do with my approaches and learning from the previous year. For pitching, it was understanding my role and really capitalizing when I was called upon. Being that consistent force to get us out of a jam and always be ready. For hitting, my approach was about attacking the first two strikes. Once I started doing that I noticed a massive difference in my swing.”

Because of their lofty status, youngsters often look up to athletes. There may be local girls who admire Brooks, who posted an 18-5 mark, with a 0.66 earned-run average, 264 strikeouts, 18 walks in 149 and one-third innings as a high school senior, and would like to emulate her. Does Brooks have any advice?

“I would say that you should get the best grades that you can because grades get you into any school you want and you can always try out,” she said. “I would also say to go to camps and get on the best travel team that you can. If you get great grades and compete at the highest level, with the best competition, then you are marketing yourself in the best way that you can.”

Delaney thinks that Brooks is an inspiration to young girls who want to play softball, even if they don’t play for Notre Dame.

“Caitlyn is a great example for younger athletes in Burbank,” he said. “She was a great student and a great athlete.”

Looking back and reflecting on her college career at Notre Dame, Brooks is extremely thankful for the opportunity and wouldn’t do anything differently.

“So far there isn’t anything I regret during my four years,” she said. “I did more than I expected to academically and athletically.”

Melissa Sanchez Chosen As Next Burbank Softball Coach

By Rick Assad

 

Melissa Sanchez has been named as the next Burbank High girls’ softball coach.

Sanchez replaces Mike Delaney, a longtime softball coach in Southern California, who recently stepped down from the position.

For Sanchez, it’s a homecoming of sorts after playing for the Bulldogs and now stepping in as coach.

“I’m so excited for the opportunity,” said Sanchez, who played for East Los Angeles College and then won a scholarship to Cal State University East Bay where she played center field. “I can’t wait to start. This is not a hobby. It’s a full-time job and I’m going to give 110 percent.”

Melissa Sanchez will lead the Burbank softball team. (Photo credit Melissa Sanchez)

At this point, Sanchez, who has been a travel ball coach, is just getting her feet wet, but thinks the future is going to be bright for the Bulldogs.

Under Delaney, the Bulldogs were usually in the top half of the Pacific League standings and more often than not advanced to the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

This is Sanchez’s first head coaching job, but played for Burbank beginning with her freshman season in 2006 and capping it off in 2009 when she graduated.

“My values and philosophy are to push the girls hard in order to be the best players that they can be. They will be confident and will have a winning mentality.”

Sanchez they added: “There’s going to be structure during practice and it’s going to be regimented. I’m going to develop the girls. It begins at the junior varsity level. That’s why you need a good JV coach in order to bring along the young ones.”

Sanchez was asked what’s the main difference between coaching travel ball and high school.

“The difference in travel ball is you can pick and choose the players,” she said. “In high school, you get what you get. But on the softball field, I control the energy level.”

Sanchez said loyalty is a key. “I think it’s important to learn loyalty,” she said. “Loyalty to the program is important. To make that commitment. I’m from Burbank. I want to build the program.”

Sanchez continied: “I know that it takes time to build that trust. But as long as I’m prepared, I think that I’m going to build a solid program that’s going to be good. I want to show that they made the right choice in hiring me.”

Sanchez believes it’s the coaches responsibility to get the team pulling in one direction, as Tom Lasorda, former Dodger and Hall of Fame manager famously once said.

“It’s the coaches job to motivate the girls to play,” she noted. “To explain why it’s important to work hard, to be excited and want to go to practice.”

In Sanchez’s system, everyone on the team will contribute, and that includes the substitutes. “The bench will have a big role,” she explained. “It’s going to be a positive environment.”

Mike Delaney, Burbank Softball Coach, Resigns Position

By Rick Assad

 

Upon initial inspection, it appears that being a high school softball coach is a pretty easy job.

You simply gather your players for a pregame drill and then the team plays a game. Then you conduct another pregame drill and play another game. Add a few more practices and that’s it.

But in reality, it’s far more complicated and nuanced than that and it’s also very time consuming.

For Mike Delaney, the longtime Burbank High skipper, the job simply demanded too much of his time on and off the field. On Monday, he stepped down from the position.

Mike Delaney stepped down as Burbank High’s softball coach. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“I had been mulling this over for a couple of months,” Delaney said of resigning. “I made up my mind two or three weeks ago.”

Delaney informed Burbank principal, Dr. Michael Bertram of his decision a while ago and said he had the full support of Bertram and the entire athletic department staff during his tenure on the clock.

Delaney then added: “It’s been a really time consuming job,” he said after serving as the head coach for six years.

Delaney gathered the team on Monday before exit meetings and told them he would not be back next season.

This is the letter Delaney sent to the players’ parents.

“There are a few reasons that I made this decision. First and foremost the position of head coach had become extremely time consuming off the field,” he wrote. “Resolving and or mediating conflict between boosters and parents regarding fundraising became an almost nightly occurrence with either phone calls, texts or emails.”

The letter continued: “This along with [the] district’s inability to resolve the majority of our [Title IX] concerns, and my concern that neither could be resolved quickly or without a bigger off field time commitment from me were major factors in my decision,” it read. “I could no longer rationalize the amount of time I was taking away from my family.”

Burbank finished 11-13-1 overall this campaign and went 8-6 for fourth place in the Pacific League.

In a CIF Southern Section first-round playoff match on the road, the Bulldogs lost to Pomona Catholic 10-2.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time with each and every team,” Delaney said. “But the job took up too much of my time.”

On most weeks, Delaney and his staff put in no less than 15 hours and as many as 18 hours.

“Now softball is practically a year-round sport,” he pointed out. “It begins in August and runs until the end of the year. When I first started, it began in January and went until the end of the year.”

If one considers travel ball, softball is indeed a year-long sport, but Delaney wasn’t a travel-ball coach.

One point, of the eight league schools, only Burbank and Burroughs don’t have an on-campus softball field and a batting cage.

Still, the Bulldogs were successful despite this under Delaney, making the postseason five of the six seasons.

Delaney, who also coached at Village Christian for nine years, said that core values are an essential lesson the girls will take with them.

“Every year is different and every year is a challenge,” he said. “Teaching the core values was important from the time they were freshmen.”

Delaney added: “I always felt it was a privilege to be the head coach and a huge responsibility to those athletes.”

Delaney said that when he drove home, it hit him that he’s not the coach. “Those are great memories,” he said. “There are some who are part-time players and there are travel-ball players and they want to get to the next level. But to see the joy in each of them is what makes it so rewarding.”

Delaney summarized his feelings: “Every team wants to win, but there is only one team that’s going to win in each division,” he said. “Of course I want them to compete. But having core values is what they’re going to take with them.”

Burroughs Softball Rallies Past City Rival Burbank 5-4

By Rick Assad

 

There were twists and turns and an eventual resolution in the seventh inning when the Burroughs High softball team faced its arch and city rival Burbank at Olive Park.

A two-run explosion that featured three hits helped propel the Indians to a 5-4 come-from-behind triumph over the Bulldogs in a Pacific League encounter before a near capacity crowd on Friday night.

Dyani Del Castillo was credited with the 5-4 win over Burbank. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“It was exciting,” Burroughs coach Wes Tanigawa said of the one-run thriller. “That’s how you want games, right? You don’t want games boring?”

Tanigawa became serious and added: “I actually think the turning point is when I brought one of my sub players in and she got a great hit,” he said of junior Sabrina Englebrecht, who singled twice. “I think that really motivated the team. It was getting toward the end of the game. The girls were kind of coming down a little bit, but Sabrina coming off the bench with that hit pumped them all up and got everybody into the game.”

Sophomore Dyani Del Castillo began the frame with a bloop single to right field off senior Alyssa Porras and sophomore Alyssa Valenzuela’s hit to left saw Del Castillo advance to second base.

Porras struck out senior Citlali Mendez swinging, but nicked senior Megan Williams, which loaded the bases.

Englebrecht lashed a sharp base hit to center that brought home Del Castillo with the tying run and when senior Hannah Skinner lofted a sacrifice fly to left field, Valenzuela, who contributed three singles, crossed the plate with the winning run.

Alyssa Porras struggled at times and was the hard-luck loser. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“I felt calm. l knew I was there already. Runners on really didn’t faze me,” said Skinner of her clutch at-bat in the seventh. “I already had a few hits before, so I knew what I was doing. I knew what she was throwing. When she was throwing all that junk, I knew she was tired at that point. I just stayed on it,” she noted.

Skinner, who singled twice, said that she was somewhat nervous early in the game, but then relaxed.

“It’s always the nerves that get us,” she said. “It’s just the nerves that get to both teams, but I calmed down as the game went on.”

The Bulldogs (4-6-2 and 3-3 in league) leaped ahead 4-3 in the top of the seventh when Porras (two hits) opened the frame with a double to center field off Del Castillo.

Del Castillo’s wild pitch moved Porras to third base and when sophomore Victoria Sanchez lifted a sacrifice fly to center field, Burbank pulled ahead by one run.

Burroughs, which finished with 14 hits, scored two runs in the first inning as Del Castillo’s double to left field brought home senior Mia Storer, who delivered a bloop single to left for a 1-0 edge.

Citlali Mendez unloads a throw during a one-run win over Burbank. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

It became 2-0 on Valenzuela’s base hit up the middle as senior Sierra Harvey, who singled, crossed home plate.

The Bulldogs, who managed five hits, evened it at 2-2 in the second inning as the Indians (7-5 and 5-1 in league) committed three of their four errors.

“It seemed like we played pepper with the left side of their infield today for the first few innings,” Burbank coach Mike Delaney said. “You’ve just got to be able to make some adjustments, but it took us a long time to figure that out. It’s an innings game. You can’t waste innings.”

Delaney, who saw his club commit two miscues, continued: “There was a good ebb and flow to the game. We rattled them and they rattled us. Hats off to them. They executed when they had to,” he said. “We battled and that’s what I love about this team. They find ways to score. Every single inning has to matter.”

Desi Gomez, who usually plays third base, was behind the plate for the Bulldogs. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Senior Izzy Sanchez had a run-scoring infield hit in the top of the second frame that scored sophomore Erika Montoya, who led off with a  triple to right field.

In the bottom half of the second, Burroughs reclaimed the lead, 3-2, when Storer’s bloop base hit to center field plated Skinner, who singled to left field.

Burbank evened it at 3-3 with a run in the fifth inning when senior Alex Davis lined a bullet to center field that eluded Storer as she raced around the bases for a home run.

In the sixth inning, Storer made a spectacular diving catch of a potential double or perhaps triple off the bat of Montoya.

The Indians collected 14 hits with five runs against the visiting Bulldogs. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Del Castillo was the winning pitcher after working seven innings, striking out one, walking two and hitting a batter.

Del Castillo induced Davis and senior Amaya Broyls to bounce out to third base in the first inning and after hitting senior Desi Gomez with a pitch, saw sophomore Lily Stell ground out to third.

Del Castillo set down the order in the third inning when Broyls was out after making contract with the ball while out of the batter’s box, Gomez popped to second base and Stell flied to right field.

Del Castillo tossed another 1-2-3 inning in the fourth when Montoya grounded to shortstop, while junior Tiffany Estrada and Izzy Sanchez each bounced back to the box.

Del Castillo’s third perfect frame was the sixth as Montoya lined to center field, while Estrada bounced to third base and Izzy Sanchez grounded to shortstop.

Porras was tagged with the setback, fanning four and hitting three batters across seven innings.

Porras allowed at least one hit in every inning except the fifth when she faced four batters, with Del Castillo the only base runner after getting hit with the pitch.

Part of the 14-hit Indians’ offensive barrage included base hits for Williams and senior Morgan Mersola.

Burroughs Softball Blanked By Crescenta Valley 5-0, Collects One Hit

By Rick Assad

 

Stepping into the batter’s box and facing Crescenta Valley High pitcher Dee Dee Hernandez’s impressive arsenal isn’t an enviable task.

On Tuesday afternoon at Olive Park, the Burroughs softball team found out exactly just how tough the sophomore is after taming the Indians 5-0 and throwing a one-hitter across seven frames in a Pacific League game.

Freshman pitcher Kelsey Acosta went four innings and allowed six hits with four runs against the Falcons. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Hernandez didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning when senior Hannah Skinner lined a sharp single to left field.

What followed were three consecutive outs as junior Chloe Bookmyer flied to left field, senior Mia Storer popped to second base and senior Sierra Harvey grounded to second base.

“It’s CV. They’re a good hitting team. They’ve got a good pitcher. It’s all mental,” said Burroughs coach Wes Tanigawa, whose team is 3-4 and 2-1 in league. “The girls just gotta learn how to focus better.”

Tanigawa then added: “They feel pressure because they know this is a really good pitcher and they want to show they can do something,” he said. “They just have to learn to slow down the game.”

Hernandez toiled seven effective innings, struck out seven batters without issuing a walk and seemed cool as a cucumber.

Hernandez seized control from the outset, striking out freshman Kelsey Acosta and junior Isabella Kam swinging and inducing junior Sabrina Englebrecht to fly to center field.

Chloe Bookmyer shown taking a big swing against Dee Dee Hernandez, who tossed a one-hitter. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“We’re just grinding,” said Crescenta Valley coach Amanda Peek, who saw the Falcons improve to 9-2-1 and 2-0 in league. “The girls didn’t come out like they wanted to today. Dee Dee’s a grinder. Our girls who show up daily, showed up today.”

Peek added: “Defense wins championships and that’s our mindset. Hitting comes and goes,” she noted.

Hernandez worked a perfect second inning as Skinner grounded to first base, Bookmyer bounced to second base and Storer fanned looking.

Harvey led off the third inning by grounding to shortstop, senior Citlali Mendez, who came into the game as a replacement for senior Lauryn Valenzuela at shortstop, then lined to shortstop and junior Memorie Munoz struck out swinging.

Hernandez worked a 1-2-3 fourth frame, fanning Acosta and Kam swinging and then getting Englebrecht to bounce back to the box.

Mia Storer takes her hacks against Dee Dee Hernandez, who went seven innings. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Mendez fouled out to third base to begin the sixth inning, Munoz popped to third base and sophomore Dyani Del Castillo, who relieved Acosta in the fifth inning, grounded to third base.

Kam opened the seventh inning by bouncing back to Hernandez, senior pinch hitter Morgan Mersola struck out swinging and Skinner popped to third base for the game’s final out.

The Falcons’ offense started off early against Acosta, who was making her first start against the defending league champions.

Acosta was admittedly nervous before her outing, but throws hard and accurate and seemed confident in the circle.

In four innings, Acosta, who will learn how to throw a changeup, allowed six hits with three strikeouts and one walk.

Del Castillo worked three innings, fanning three, walking three, hitting one batter and surrendering three hits.

Crescenta Valley collected just one hit off Acosta in the first inning, but it produced two runs as freshman Izzy Jamgotchian lined a double to left field as senior Alyssa Hernandez, who was safe on an error and Hernandez, who walked and had a pinch runner enter for her, both scored to make it 2-0.

Alyssa Hernandez and sophomore Stephanie Wichman each collected two singles for the Falcons.

Jamgotchian advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt from senior Kristy Taix and crossed the plate for a 3-0 lead when senior Peyton Hause was safe on the second error in the inning.

The Falcons added a run in the fourth inning to make it 4-0 when sophomore Morgan Eng drilled a single down the line in the left field, stole second base and scored on an error.

Crescenta Valley waltzed in front 5-0 with a run in the sixth as Dee Dee Hernandez’s two-out grounder brought home Wichman, who was safe on an infield hit.