TUJUNGA — The matchup was set: The Burbank Junior All-Stars would be facing Canyon Country for the Section 2 softball title.
However, before that, the same two squads had to face one another in a pool-play game.
In this prelude to the championship game, Burbank took the lead early and led wire-to-wire in a 12-7 victory over Canyon Country Monday at the Tujunga Little League Fields.
The teams will play again at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at the same location. This game will be a winner-take-all scenario for the Section 2 title.
Burbank’s pool-play victory Monday yielded no advantage, as the home team will still be determined by coin flip.
“I saw our team come out and not play our best game,” Burbank coach Rocco Buffolino said. “I thought Canyon Country played well. We need to step it up on Wednesday night and play a better game.”
Burbank, out of District 16, had eight players drive in at least one run. Calista Lee, Kym Rudder, Jeselyn Reccelle, Caitlyn Gisneros, Briyana Ampie and Angie Marquez drove in one run apiece. Ann Buffolino and Clarisa Robles had two RBI each.
Buffolino notched both of her RBI in the six-run bottom of the fourth that saw 12 Burbank batters come to the plate.
“In the first few innings, we kind of laid back. I think we were kind of nervous, but then we pepped up and got those six runs in one inning. That really helped,” Ann Buffolino said.
At the start of the inning, Canyon Country brought in relief pitcher Amanda Jeffries and Ann Buffolino gave her a rough greeting, smashing the first pitch she threw well over the fence in left-center for a home run.
“I went up there and saw she pitched low and inside, which is my favorite,” Ann Buffolino said. “I said, ‘I’m just going to hit this one out and get [us] going.’”
Buffolino drove in the final run of the outburst with a two-out single.
Buffolino also started in the circle and pitched four effective innings. She struck out at least one batter in each frame, ending up with six Ks.
Lee took over for the final three innings, striking out two and giving up four runs on two hits.
Canyon Country, from District 40, scored its first three runs with two outs.
“[Burbank] is a tough team,” Canyon Country coach Jerry Jeffries said. “They come out and they’ve got a lot of experienced players. We usually get mercied, so for what we’ve done here I’m very proud of our girls. This was awesome.”
Burbank jumped out early, recording four runs in the bottom of the first to seize control. Robles drove in the first run on a groundout. She was followed by Lee, who drove in the second with a double over the center fielder’s head. Rudder immediately followed with a run-producing single.
Canyon Country starting pitcher Samantha Carr walked the next three batters. The final walk of that string was to Reccelle, which brought in a run and a 4-0 lead.
Canyon Country scored the next three runs to climb within 4-3, but Burbank scored the next seven and cruised the rest of the way.
“I like the way they bounced back and they battled. They came out and showed some life and some energy,” Rocco Buffolino said.
Throughout the game, Burbank was aggressive on the bases, but patient at the plate, drawing eight walks.
A quirk in scheduling led to the somewhat superfluous game between the two Monday. Both teams had already demolished Tehachapi over the weekend, eliminating the team from District 51. Additionally, San Marino dropped out of the tournament before it started, leaving just three teams to fight over which two would get the spots in the championship contest on Wednesday.