LA CAÑADA — The La Cañada and Burbank High softball teams faced off in a nonleague double-header among area powers before returning to play in the Rio Hondo and Pacific leagues respectively, in which each squad has started with two wins.
“We wanted to play La Cañada. [Spartans Coach KC Mathews] always has a real good, well-coached team and they play good, solid defense,” Burbank Coach Mike Delaney said. “We wanted to have something before going into the heart of our league schedule.”
The visiting Bulldogs, ranked No. 5 in Division III of the CIF-Southern Section, came away with a sweep against the Spartans on Saturday with Bulldogs hurler Caitlyn Brooks going the distance in both wins. Burbank took the opener, 11-1, in a game shortened to five innings due to the mercy rule, before winning the second game, 5-1, which saw Brooks’ bat make the difference in the second half of the double dip.
“[Brooks] is what makes our team go, basically. She is one of those kids,” Delaney, in his first year at Burbank, said. “She is very humble, very team-oriented, but she just goes about her business the right way. That’s hats off to every coach that coached her before.”
The Bulldogs (9-3) called on Brooks to throw every pitch of the twin bill and the reigning All-Area Softball Player of the Year was dominant in both games.
“It’s definitely more difficult,” Brooks said of pitching both halves of the doubleheader. “You get tired near the end. You just have to work on endurance in practice. It’s not as normal to throw 12 innings, but I’ve done it before. You just go out there and do the best you can.”
The junior went the distance in the abbreviated first game, recording her sixth strikeout to end the game after five innings with her team ahead by the required 10 runs. The loss was the first game the Spartans had played in nine days.
“I won’t put that [loss] on the layoff,” Mathews said after the first game. “I thought [Spartans pitcher] Maddy [MacKenzie] threw really well. That’s a tough lineup to get through and they’ve been doing this to teams all year long.”
Brooks was even better in the second game, fanning seven through the first three innings on the way to 13 total strikeouts while yielding just five singles.
“It’s definitely not what we are used to in our league and she is probably one of the best pitchers we’ll face this season,” Spartan catcher Olivia Lam, who drove in her squad’s lone run in the second game with a single, said of Brooks.
After flexing its muscle in the first game, the Burbank bats quieted down in the second game, which saw the Spartans (9-5) send Hanna Heileson to the circle. The sophomore went the distance, striking out three and holding the Bulldogs’ bats in check throughout, with the notable exception of Brooks.
“I thought [Heileson] threw great,” Mathews said of his sophomore hurler.
Brooks drove in four of her team’s five runs in the second game and scored the fifth to lead her squad to the win.
In the first inning, the junior drove in Bridgette Pisa from first with a double that hit the base of the fence in the right-center field gap.
Brooks then broke a 1-1 tie in the third with another double to right field, this time driving in two. Brooks followed by stealing third base before coming in to score on a sacrifice fly to center by Lily Winn.
Finally, Brooks drove in the last run of the day with a single in the top of the seventh to score Pisa once more.
“I had most of my hits with two strikes,” Brooks said. “I was just trying to shorten up and hit the opposite way. She was pitching outside and I was just trying to go with the pitch.”
Just as it did in the second game, La Cañada scored its only run of the opening contest in the first inning in the first contest.
However, this was after Burbank had pushed across three in the top of the frame. Burbank carried a 6-1 advantage into the fifth inning on the strength of home runs by Winn, Mandy DeLeon and Jazmin Orozco in the first, second and fourth innings, respectively.
“They got their bats on a couple balls, three big balls,” Mathews said of the Bulldogs’ power surge. “Then in that last inning we got a little bit of craziness.”
The fifth inning saw the visitors score five to push the lead to 10 runs. Kaitlin Brooks drove in the first run of the fifth with a bases-loaded walk. Julia Duarte followed with a two-run single up the middle. Orozco kept it going with a run-scoring groundout before the final run of the first game came across on the second Spartans’ fielding error of the inning.
Both schools will return to league play next. The Spartans travel to take on Monrovia on Wednesday. The Bulldogs will also go on the road to face Muir, although Caitlyn Brooks will get a rest as Delaney has junior Hanna Moulton in mind to face the Mustangs.
“We just have to be ready for it,” Delaney said of returning to league action, where the Bulldogs are looking to defend their first title in 26 years. “We have to go out and play our game.”