TUJUNGA — The Burbank Dodgers and Vaquero Cougars Minor baseball teams suffered early losses in the District 16 Tournament of Champions.
The squads were battling their way through the second-chance bracket in hopes of staying alive for a chance to play for a championship when they met Friday at Tujunga Little League Fields.
Burbank was able to come back from an early deficit to earn an 18-8 victory against Vaquero in a game that was called in the fourth inning.
The win puts Burbank in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Saturday at Pacific Park. The championship game will be played at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Pacific Park.
“I knew that we would be able to bounce back after that first loss,” said Burbank manager Chris Montgomery, whose team lost to Crescenta Valley on Tuesday, 13-0, and bounced back to defeat the Foothill Red Hawks on Wednesday, 14-8. “I think a lot of it in that game that we lost was just nerves.
“We are just a tough team and they are just battling. We are out of pitchers and I have kids coming in who have never pitched before and they are doing the job for us.”
A combined six pitchers between the teams suffered their share of control problems. The contingent combined for 25 walks, 17 wild pitches and two hit batters.
“At this level, I think it all comes down to nerves and which team could get the nerves out and overcome that,” Vaquero manager Michael Machado said. “And you could see that today with both teams’ pitchers.
“Day in and day out you are able to teach the muscle memory and the right things to do in certain situations, but the nerves really play a big part. I think once you get those nerves out you start doing well.”
Burbank got things started with three runs in the top of the first inning. Jeremy Lee (three for three with four runs batted in and two runs scored) and Hector Murrillo (two for three with two RBI and two) knocked in runs with base hits and Taylor Prior (two for three with an RBI and two runs) scored on a wild pitch.
Vaquero came back to push across four runs in the bottom of the first to go in front, 4-3. In the frame, two runs were scored on a Burbank throwing error and Noah Umali (two walks, two runs) and Jayden Garcia (three walks, two runs) came around on wild pitches.
The lead was quickly erased in the top of the third when Burbank took an 8-4 advantage, as Prior plated a run with a single, Lee had a run-scoring double, Brandon Kim (two walks, two runs) scored on a wild pitch, Kayson Montgomery (triple, walk) stole home and Nick De Leon singled home a run.
“I think we hit pretty good today,” Lee said. “I felt good at the plate today.”
Vaquero got back a run in the bottom of the second to make it 8-5. Jose Barcena singled and came home on a wild pitch.
Another five-run inning in the top of the third gave Burbank some breathing room, 13-5. Kim drove home a run with a single, Montgomery had a run-scoring triple, De Leon had a run-scoring base hit and Denny Ricciardella and Franco Ruiz drew bases-loaded walks.
With a two-run double by Antonio Larcena and Jordan Jiries getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, Vaquero plated three runs in the bottom of the third to get to within 13-8.