Burbank High’s Caitlyn Brooks has made a name for herself as a successful pitcher since she broke onto the high school scene three years ago as a freshman.
And rightfully so.
In three seasons with the Bulldogs, the dominant right-hander has racked up 62 victories and has a .838 winning percentage.
But perhaps lost in her sparkling numbers as a pitcher are the stats she has put up at the plate. During the three-year span, Brooks has a .489 batting average with 100 runs batted in and 22 home runs.
Brooks has proven to be just as potent a hitter as she is a pitcher.
“I guess most of the time it’s her hitting that gets most of the headlines,” Burbank sophomore first baseman Julia Duarte said. “And that’s understandable because she is such a good pitcher. But she is also an amazing hitter and she was one of the best hitters in our lineup.
“We do a drill in practice and I’ve seen her hit so many balls over the fence. She has a lot of power as a hitter.”
Brooks has had a hitting instructor as well as a private pitching coach since she was young. Currently, her hitting coach is Nicole Giordano, a Saugus graduate and former member of the US Olympic Softball Team who was an All-American at the University of Arizona, helping the Wildcats win an NCAA National Championship in 2001.
“I try and concentrate on my hitting as much as I do on my pitching,” said Brooks, who has given a commitment to the University of Notre Dame. “That is a part of my game that I just can’t neglect and something that I work really hard on. I just want to be the complete player, because I know that’s what they want once I get to college.
“I have been taking pitching lessons a little longer than I have been taking hitting lessons. I think I started pitching lessons at 8 and hitting lessons at 10. We just wanted to make sure that along with my pitching, I would be able to hit on any team that I might be on.”
Brooks proved to be a complete player during the 2014 season for Burbank. Along with putting up big numbers in the circle, she was also one of the most feared hitters in the area. For her efforts, Brooks was named the Pacific League Player of the Year, earned CIF Southern Section first-team accolades, was named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Assn. All-West Region first team and was a NFCA High School All-America Softball third-team honoree.
It is because of these accomplishments that Brooks has been voted the 2014 All-Area Softball Player of the Year, as voted by the sportswriters of the Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press and La Cañada Valley Sun.
It is the second straight season that Brooks has received the honor.
Since her freshman year, Brooks has been a force as a pitcher for the Bulldogs. This past season, the right-hander showed her dominance once again. She had a 21-4 record and a 1.18 earned-run average over 160 innings. In addition, she struck out 258 and walked 22.
“What is great about Caitlyn pitching-wise is that she is always open to suggestions and she really listens to any new ideas,” said Burbank Coach Mike Delaney, who finished his first season as the Bulldogs’ skipper. “She is just such a dominating pitcher already, but she wants to get better.
“We worked on some new things this past season and she bought in. Really, she has bought in from day one. On the first day of practice I sat down with her and talked about things that I would like to see from her and challenged her with a couple of things, mainly establishing her change-up and her drop-ball a little bit more. She worked on those things extremely hard.”
Brooks said she went into the season with some definite aspects of her pitching game that she wanted to work on.
“I mostly wanted to work on hitting my spots, especially with 0-2 and 1-2 counts,” she said. “That was really important to me. That was one of my goals and just to get better every year and try and improve as a pitcher.”
At the plate, Brooks was a consistent offensive threat. She was second on the team with a .513 average (40 for 78) and also drove in 42 runs, had seven doubles, six triples and five home runs. She also ended with a .948 slugging percentage and a .623 one-base percentage.
Another statistic that stands out for Brooks is that she drew 25 walks, as many teams chose to pitch around her.
“I have never seen a player intentionally walked as many times as Caitlyn was last season,” Duarte said. “Teams just didn’t want to take the chance and pitch to her because she would probably make them pay. They respected her hitting so much that they would rather walk her.”
Brooks said although being walked so many times sometimes proved frustrating, she looked at it as an opportunity to get on base and help the team.
“I saw the [Crescenta Valley] coach right after the season and he said ‘We really walked you a lot’ and I was like ‘I know, it was so aggravating.’ But I know that is a form of respect,” Brooks said. “When they walked me I just looked at it like a free base that they’re giving me, so maybe my teammates can knock me in and have the other team pay for the walk.
“As far as my hitting this season, I was really trying to focus on getting base hits, because when you focus on base hits that’s when you get your power. I just wanted to put the bat on the ball and I was hoping the power would come.”
Behind Brooks, Burbank had a 24-4 record and went 14-0 in the Pacific League, rolling to its second straight championship. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they couldn’t carry that success over into the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs. Despite being the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Burbank lost in the second round to Palos Verdes, 5-2.
With one more year with the Bulldogs in front of her, Brooks hopes to carry her past success into her senior season before heading of to compete in college. And despite all of her individual accolades, Brooks admitted there is one team goal for the 2015 season that is most important to her.
“I think winning league again is the biggest goal,” she said. “All of the players work so hard in practice and to get a league title is just amazing. That is the most important thing to me.”
Follow Jeff Tully on Twitter: @jefftsports.