First published in the Feb. 19 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
There is no clear favorite to win the Pacific League softball title this season, but if the squads from Burbank and Burroughs high schools have their way, the championship will be finding a home in the Media Capital of the World.
The Bears softball players have a saying. It’s “Let’s get it.” What is it? It’s the Pacific League title, which they have six of since 2010.
”We’re looking for a league title,” Burroughs coach Doug Nicol said. “Then we are looking at making a run in the CIF playoffs. We have a good mix of seniors and younger kids, so it’s a really deep team. We have a lot of talent. Every kid can play. They have been competing hard for literally the last three or four months. These girls have been competing for starting positions and now it’s time to go. We think we have just as good a chance as anyone else to win the league.”
The key to Burroughs’ success will begin in the circle with senior pitcher Kelsey Acosta, who is a returning all-league first-team selection.
“She is a spin and location pitcher,” Nicol said. “She is about making the ball move and hitting the spots.”
Providing pitching depth behind the senior will be Stevie Dabbadie, who is also a powerful hitter, and Olivia Kam.
“Everything starts with Kelsey in the center, then we just try to work our way out,” Nicol said.
Returning players will be counted on to lead the way. One is Kam, who will start at second base and is a senior who is committed to play at Brown next year. Another is Gigi Garcia, who earned all-league second team recognition last season and will be “the motor” in centerfield. Senior Isabella Scozzola is another, and Nicol considers her “a beast and probably the best first baseman in the league.”
Junior Rachel Little, who also garnered all-league status last season, will be back behind the plate and Nicol thinks she is the league’s premier catcher. Senior Kiley Christopher will be anchoring the corner at third base.
Youth will also be served with Mia Ramirez in right field and sophomore Gizelle Rangsiyawong, a transfer from North Hollywood, at shortstop.
Nicol hopes to see improvements at the plate this season on the way to a potential title.
“Last year I thought we tended to sit back and not be as aggressive as we could have been early in games and kind of wait to the end. I’d like to see us jump up on people earlier in games and really be aggressive early and not be in as many close games as we were last year.”
The Bulldogs have eyes on winning the Pacific League and scoring some victories in the CIF playoffs.
“We just have a strong winning mentality,” coach Melissa Sanchez said. “If you ask my players what they expect, it’s just to win. We’ve instilled that since day one. My returners know that. The winning mentality: win, win, win. That is what we are about.”
In her third year at the helm, Sanchez thinks this season’s squad might be her most loaded yet.
“Out of these three years, I believe this is going to be one of our strongest [teams]. I’m rolling deep with pitching finally for the first time since I’ve been hired,” Sanchez said. “I have a lot of young girls, but I also have a lot of upperclassman returners.”
The Bulldogs’ prowess in the circle starts with a newcomer in freshman Maddison Kellogg, who will be the No. 1 pitcher.
“She brings a lot of confidence,” Sanchez said of her ace. ”She’s young, but she has a veteran’s mentality. She likes pressure situations.”
Sophomore Grace Workman, who pitched the heavy workload last season, brings depth to the staff behind Kellogg. “We’re still in need of Grace.”
The Bulldogs also promise to be hard to deal with at the plate.
“We have a strong, solid nine batters. If you look through our lineup, we don’t have a weak part,” Sanchez said.
Leading the way are three hitters who the coach thinks will “dominate the league” in Samantha Buckley, Elizabeth Zamora and Belinda Lujano. Buckley, a junior shortstop, is “just a power-hitting stud,” the coach said. Lujano, a sophomore, is versatile at the plate. “Belinda is a slapper. She power slaps, she bunts, she has a lot of speed.” Zamora is power-hitting senior who “is very smart on the bases.”
Catching will be Shelby Cribbs, a junior who is also a basketball player, has a “strong arm and is just a gamer and solid all-around hitter,” Sanchez said.
At third base will be sophomore Eliza Bowren, who will bat in the cleanup spot.
“We just want to have a positive winning season,” Sanchez said. “What I mean by that is I want the girls to have fun, I want them to win, I want them to be competitive. As long as we can do that, no matter where we stand we’re going to be good with that.”