By Nathan Cambridge
The Burbank High softball team advanced past the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs without ever setting foot on the diamond. The Bulldogs’ opening opponent, Coast Union, had forfeited due to a lack of players.
So, for all intents and purposes, the Bulldogs’ postseason journey began in the second round by hosting Oxnard Santa Clara.
As it turned out, it was also where that journey came to an end. The Bulldogs were never really able to break through against Saints’ pitcher Mia Guerrero and fell, 7-3, in their CIF-Southern Section Division 5 second round playoff game Saturday afternoon at Maxam Memorial Park.
“It was a tough one,” Burbank coach Melissa Sanchez said. “We came in prepared [and] ready to go. The girls were ready. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring the sticks out [and] pitching got away a little bit at the end.”
Guerrero went the distance in the circle for Santa Clara (11-5-1 overall record), scattering six hits and striking out five.
“It’s a weird release point,” Sanchez said of Guerrero’s delivery. “We should have just attacked that first pitch. She was throwing a lot of first pitch strikes and we weren’t attacking.”
Guerrero had been perfect through the first three innings and the Saints held a 1-0 advantage before Burbank (12-10 record) got things going in the bottom of the fourth. Freshman Belinda Lujano led off with a bunt single. Sophomore Samantha Buckley followed that with a single into left field. Lily Stell then advanced the runners with a sacrifice fly before Elizabeth Zamora smacked a single to center to drive in Lujano and Buckley and give the hosts their first and only lead of the game.
Santa Clara, ranked No. 6 in the final CIF divisional poll, answered in the top of the fifth with two runs off of Bulldog pitcher Grace Workman, who went the distance with four strikeouts. The Saints would also push across a pair of runs in each of the next two innings to pull away for the win.
Burbank’s final run of the contest came in the bottom of the sixth inning. Buckley led off the frame by smashing a triple to the deepest part of left field. Then, with one out, Zamora drove Buckley in with a ground out, meaning the junior drove in all of her team’s runs. Kara Valencia followed with a single, but was left stranded when a groundout ended the inning.
The Bulldogs’ only other hit came in the bottom of the fifth when Sasha Quintanar dropped a single into left field.
Although season has come to a close, the Bulldogs are well stocked with young talent and positioned for success in future seasons.
“Ninety percent of our team is freshman and sophomores and they are learning the game,” Sanchez, a graduate of Burbank High, said. “They are learning to be in pressure moments for the first time in their lives. They work hard and they are all very, very talented. So I definitely think we’re going to be a top dog next year.”
For Stell, the lone senior of the squad, Saturday’s defeat brought an end to her Bulldog career.
“I loved this season. I love my teammates. I love my coaches,” Stell said. “I am so proud of everyone. I just want to thank everyone for giving me such a great senior year.”