First published in the Feb. 19 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
It’s time for baseball to come front and center at Burbank High and Burroughs and both the Bulldogs and Bears are ready.
The official high school season for baseball lies in the spring, but baseball at Burbank never rests.
“We had really strong winter and fall ball, but that doesn’t always translate, so I always try to keep them humble, but we definitely have the ability to play the game well,” Bulldogs coach Robert Hart said. “We have solid pitching. We’ve got some good senior leadership. It looks good for us, I think.”
The Bulldogs like to let their play on the field lead the way.
“We like to play our best baseball every day and not worry about opponents. I think baseball is a kind of game where, if you take care of business, you handle your defensive responsibilities, you throw the ball over the plate, don’t give up free bases, you generally are in a lot of games. So that is always our M.O.: to play clean baseball,” Hart said. “I just try to get them to approach it one day at a time.”
The Bulldogs will be strong on the mound and in the field, with work to do at the plate.
“On the hill we have arms,” Hart said. “I think pitching is our strength. I think we play pretty good defense. I think hitting is going to be our biggest challenge. We’ve shown signs of it, but not the consistency I’d like to see.”
There are three captains for this season. Senior Daniel Neria, who recently signed with San Marcos University, is one of them.
“We lean heavily on Daniel Neria. He was an all-league guy last year,” Hart said. “He’s definitely one of our guys.”
Jared Cantu, a senior who will be handling the pitching staff from behind the plate, is another.
The third is senior infielder Wyatt Lamarsna. All will be looked to for their leadership.
“The best teams are generally run from within, not necessarily with a bullwhip and a coach, especially an old coach,” Hart quipped. “It really serves them well if they are vested and take control of that team.”
Neria will be an ace for Burbank this season. The remaining bulk of the pitching staff is populated with lefties in senior Josh DiPietro, junior Jimmy Cafferty and senior Jose Avellaneda. Ben Castillo and David McBride will fill out the back end of the staff.
Joining the rest of the Bulldogs upon the conclusion of basketball season will be Sattwik Banerjee, Joe Maslyk and Julian Gonzalez.
“[This team] is a great group of guys. Probably one of my most enjoyable teams to coach in my 18 years here, because they get along great and have great energy,” Hart said.
The Bears this year are planning on not being an easy out.
“For us, every game is a battle and an opportunity to compete,” Burroughs coach Matt Magallon said. “Our guys don’t need anything to get them hyped up for a game. They are excited to be out there and ready to play.”
Magallon touts the leaders he has on the team as a strong point, specifically Mason Medina, who has been picked unanimously as a captain his sophomore, junior and now senior seasons. “We go as far as he takes us,” Magallon said.
The roster features 12 seniors, but all the Bears come in with some idea of what to expect.
“We are young, but we are experienced. We have a lot of juniors. We have a lot of sophomores. We have our fair share of seniors,” Magallon said. “I think the strength of this team is that they have played varsity baseball before and have experience playing the teams in our league.”
Sophomore Nate Chapman will be playing second base, batting leadoff and setting the tone.
”He’s our spark plug,” Magallon said. “He makes the engine go.”
The pitching staff starts with junior Nick Forrest, who “was a pretty dominant pitcher in [the Pacific] League last season.” Also returning to the mound will be senior Gunnar Nichols, who will start. Another hurler will be Brayden Sibley-Ackerman, who is a hard-throwing leftie slated to fill a variety of roles. The senior is already committed to Division I Norfolk State University in Virginia. Devan McGivern, a submariner, will be the opening day starter and will also be used in a lot of ways.
New to the team is Bailey Ewan, a transfer from St. Francis, who will be playing at third and has acclimated well to the Burroughs way of doing things.
“Burroughs is going to play that Burroughs brand of baseball,” said Magallon, now in his third year as coach. “We are going to outhustle people. We’re just going to come out and compete and do everything we can to win a ballgame. We don’t look past anybody and we’re just going to try our best every single day and whatever the outcome is is the outcome. We’re excited and it’s going to be a fun year.”