BURBANK — A wide gap between opportunities and opportunities cashed in proved to be a big part of the reason why the Burroughs High softball team's season ended quicker than any members of the squad had hoped.
Visiting Bishop Amat High threatened in six of seven innings, came up with enough big hits and backed its pitchers with solid defense in what was a 6-3 victory for the visiting Lancers in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs Tuesday afternoon at Olive Park.
The defeat capped a 19-7-1 season for the Pacific League runner-up Indians.
The Del Rey League runner-up Lancers (18-9), a wild-card entrant, picked up their second victory this postseason and earned advancement to Thursday's second round versus another set of Lancers in La Serna.
"Honestly, the difference was that Bishop Amat made some plays and we didn't," Burroughs Coach Doug Nicol said. "They got some runners on and made a few things happen and we didn't. We made some mistakes on defense and on the base paths that we don't normally do and that was it."
Overall, Bishop Amat finished four for 14 (.285 batting average) with runners in scoring position with a double, triple and six RBI, while the Lancers stranded 10 runners.
In contrast, Burroughs was only two for four in the same scenario with a double and two RBI.
The last at-bat in that situation also turned out to be the final plate appearance of the contest.
Burroughs trailed, 6-2, entering the bottom of the seventh when Danielle Ryan and DJ Santos led off with singles to put runners on first and second.
A strikeout by Amat pitcher Samaria Diaz (3-4) was followed by a 1-2 fastball ripped into right-center field by Indians junior Michelle Santiago.
The hit plated Ryan, but also led to the game's conclusion when an 8-4-2 relay led to the inning's final two outs as Santiago was out trying to extend her single into a double and then a throw from second baseman Eryn Sustayta to catcher Julia Valenzuela recorded the final out at the plate.
"Most of the time our aggression on the base paths pays off," said Nicol, who also had two runners thrown out by Valenzuela on steal attempts. "Today, that just wasn't the case."
The Lancers put themselves in control with a three-run fifth inning, which broke a 2-2 stalemate.
Amanda Sanchez and Miranda Larios singled to start the frame before Indians starting pitcher Cheyenne Steward (9-5) coaxed a soft liner to shortstop for an out.
The infield out kept the game tied and the Lancers one for eight, at the time, with runners in scoring position.
Yet, senior Brittany Casini changed that with a run-scoring single to center that plated Sanchez.
Steward bounced back from the hit by inducing another soft popup to short that could have ended in a double play had two Indians infielders not collided while making the out. Amat base runner Larios, who was leaning way off second, was just able to slide back safely to the bag.
That extra out was critical for Amat, as No. 9 batter Madeline Ramirez ripped a two-run triple to center that propelled the Lancers ahead, 5-2.
"It was very nerve-wracking with them getting batters in scoring position every inning," said Steward, who allowed six runs (five earned) on 12 hits in 6 2/3 innings. "I trusted in my defense because I knew they would make plays behind me."
Bishop Amat added a run in the sixth on a single from Barrera and initially kicked off the game with a run in the second inning on back-to-back doubles from Sanchez and Casini.
The Lancers also added a run in the third in part because of an outfield error.
"We knew we were playing a quality team in Burroughs today and this win can only help our confidence," Amat Coach Kristen Dedmon said. "This is a quality win."
Burroughs' big inning was the third, with Sidney Ortega on first with two outs and the Indians trailing, 2-0.
Steward smacked a triple down the third-base line off Amat starting pitcher Sanchez (allowed two runs on four hits in three innings), which scored Ortega.
Kaitlin Okimoto (two for three with a RBI) then followed with a single that knotted the game at 2.
"I think we just made mistakes that we don't normally make," Indians senior Aimee Rodriguez said. "In the playoffs, you can't make those mistakes."
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.