Burbank area softball teams trying to repeat success
Burbank Bulldogs look like team to beat in league, while Burroughs Indians, Providence Pioneers and Bell-Jeff Guards try and replace key players.
Burroughs' Brice Edrington pitches the ball during a scrimmage against La Canada at La Canada High School on Thursday, February 21, 2013. (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Burbank Leader / February 21, 2013)
Burroughs High and Bellarmine-Jefferson captured league championships. Providence remained in the running for a share of a league title until the final regular season contest and Burbank was still in contention for a crown up until the final week of the Pacific League campaign.
Bell-Jeff went on to play in its second consecutive CIF Southern Section Division VII championship game and the Bulldogs made an impressive run to the Division III quarterfinals
Heading into the 2013 season, three of the squads are dealing with their share of departures. Like the Pioneers, the Indians lost some key contributors to graduation. However, Burroughs has also had to deal with situation of players deciding not to come out for the team.
The Guards are dealing with another predicament completely. Although the squad did lose All-Area player Jaylen Watson, who moved, the team has also endured a rash of injuries that will have a group of athletes sidelined for the start of the season.
The lone team that isn’t dealing with those problems is Burbank. Most of the Bulldogs return this season, and many are picking them to be the favorites in the Pacific League.
Here is a closer look at the teams.
Under coach Nicole Drabecki, Burbank (23-7) rolled to the quarterfinals for the first time in two decades, despite getting the No. 3 seed from the Pacific League after tying for second place.
In the playoffs, the Bulldogs defeated La Reina, 1-0, in the first round before earning a 1-0 win against Downey in the second round. Burbank fell in the quarterfinals, however, to Bishop Amat, 10-4.
The lone contributor lost to graduation from that squad was All-Area infielder Nalani Hernandez.
“We definitely have the talent on this team this season,” Drabecki said. “We have four seniors on this team who obviously have never won a Pacific League title or a CIF title, so we will be looking to hopefully do both if we can.”
A lot of those aspirations will rest on the arm of sophomore pitcher Caitlyn Brooks, who earned first-team All-CIF, All-Area and all-league accolades a year ago. Brooks made an instant impact with the Bulldogs, notching a 16-5 record and a 1.95 earned-run average to go along with 180 strikeouts in 147 innings. She was just as impressive at the plate, with a .429 average, 23 runs batted in and 22 runs.
“I’ve seen a lot of pitchers over the years as a coach, and I’ll tell you, Caitlyn is just a special player,” Drabecki said. “For being so young, she is just a seasoned pitcher and she has improved so much from last season. She is the one who is going to lead us this season. I’m amazed by her.”
Brooks is not the only talent returning for the Bulldogs. Senior Katie Hooper — who is headed to Cal State Northridge — will move from the outfield to second base. A year ago, the All-CIF standout hit .467 with 42 hits, 39 RBI and 11 home runs. In addition, the senior scored 45 runs, had a .533 on-base percentage and a .967 slugging percentage.
The roster will also feature returners Laina Do (.444, 36 hits, 27 RBI, 27 runs scored, 20 stolen bases in 20 attempts), a senior shortstop who is headed to Yale, senior outfielder Ashley Russo (.377, 29 hits, 17 RBI), senior first baseman Tiffany Pisa, sophomore third baseman Lily Winn and sophomore catcher Bridgette Pisa.
“The key to doing well in the playoffs is that you have to have the experience and you need to be confident,” Drabecki said. “We’re hoping that last year’s experience in the playoffs is going to pay off for us this year. What we went through last year can only make our team better.”
Drabecki said she is hoping to fill outfield spots with players from the junior varsity squad.
With their share of experience, Drabecki said she is hoping her Bulldogs will finally be able to get over the hump and win a league championship.