They have been playing together since they first learned to hit a softball or field a ground ball. Maybe that's why the So Cal Burbank Heartbreakers have been so successful as a team.
The 10-and-under girls' squad came through with a big effort in a tournament earlier this month, which enabled the Heartbreakers to earn a spot in the Triple Crown World Series of Softball on July 15-22 in Park City, Utah. The tournament will feature 24 teams mostly from California, Nevada and Utah.
The squad — made up entirely of Burbank residents — qualified for the World Series by winning the Triple Crown Stars and Strikes Tournament in Beaumont on June 10. The Heartbreakers shook off a loss during pool play, defeated the same opponent it had previously fell to and captured the tournament championship.
"The turning point for us was when we suffered that loss and we came back the next day and beat that same team," said Heartbreakers head Coach Richard Escamilla. "To be able to do that was big. I think that gave the girls' confidence that they could win the tournament and they could come back after a loss."
The Burbank squad had to fight to win the championship game against Team AB from Riverside.
The Heartbreakers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning after Carley Gay walked and was driven home on a double by Alyssa Porras. However, Team AB came back to take a 2-1 advantage in the top of the first after a two-run home run.
Burbank evened the score in the second when Alyssa Ledesma delivered a single up the middle and scored on a single to left field by Gay.
Team AB tacked on a single run in the fourth to take a 3-2 lead.
That's how the score remained until the fifth inning. The Heartbreakers were able to regain the lead, 4-3. Gay came through again, singling to center to score Mia Storer, who reached on an error. Jasmine Chavez then singled to score Storer.
Storer put Burbank up, 5-3, with a hit that drove in Hannah Skinner in the top of the sixth. However, Team AB came back with a run in the bottom of the inning to make it a 5-4.
Burbank was then able to stave off a Team AB threat in the bottom of the sixth, taking away potential hits with two fine defensive plays in the infield by Gay and Kaitlin Escamilla.
"Those were very big plays, and those catches really saved the game for us," Escamilla said. "That defense in that last inning was incredible."
In tournament pool play, Burbank opened with a 7-6 win against Gamers Academy from Temecula. However, the Heartbreakers then lost to the Quakes from Rancho Cucamonga, 5-4, before beating the C.V. Wrath from Indio, 10-0.
In the semifinals, Burbank squared off again against the Quakes. However, this time Burbank was able to come out on top with a resounding 9-0 victory. Storer threw a no-hitter through five innings to pick up the win.
In the tournament, Gay hit .583 (seven for 12) with four walks and three doubles, Escamilla batted .500 (four for eight) with three walks, Porras hit .364 (four for 11) with two doubles and Ledesma hit 308 (four for 13).
The Heartbreakers are no strangers to success. Last season, the squad captured a title in the Tri-Cities District 16 Minor Softball Tournament of Champions. In addition, this season the squad placed first with an undefeated record in the Burbank Park, Recreation and Community Services Ponytail Softball 5/6 Division.
"It's pretty tough on the travel-ball circuit because most of the teams we play against hold tryouts and they have competition for players at every position," Escamilla said. "But what we've tried to do with our team is that we started out with this group when they were 5 years old and we tried to keep them together every year as a team. That's why they have been able to be successful."
Since the Heartbreakers qualified for the Triple Crown World Series of Softball, Escamilla said it has been a struggle to raise enough money to fund the trip. The team has had bake sales and garage sales to try and come up with the funding.
"It's been hard," Escamilla said about the fundraising. "All the families are trying to come up with the money to be able to go on the trip."
Along with assistant coaches Mike Gay and Ed Mejia, the Heartbreakers also include players Ariana Farias, Mikayla Gay, Allison Salvador and Paige Mejia.