BURBANK — Perhaps the smallest and yet most complex difference that separated the Burroughs High and Glendale softball teams in Tuesday afternoon’s Pacific League opener was defense.
Even simpler put, the young Nitros committed five errors, while the more veteran Indians minimized their one mistake in an 11-1 win called after five innings at Jack Smock Field at Olive Park in Burbank.
“Our game plan was to just go there, pitch to contact and play solid defense behind [starting pitcher] Cheyenne Steward and we did that,” Burroughs Coach Doug Nicol said after his CIF Southern Section Division III 10th-ranked team improved to 9-3-1 overall. “We’re a real strong defensive team and knew we could back up Cheyenne.”
On the flip side, the contest unraveled in the third and fourth innings for Glendale (8-2), which committed four errors and surrendered eight runs in falling behind, 9-1.
With the contest tied at 1 in the bottom of the third, Nitros pitcher Jordan Lousararian (5-1) began by recording a flyout to right and what should have been a second out on a grounder that was booted in the infield.
The miscue allowed Burroughs multi-sport athlete Sidney Ortega to reach first and then advance to second on a single from Steward.
Both Ortega and Steward eventually scored on another infield error, while Kaitlin Okimoto, who followed Steward in the batting order, also came home on an infield error, as Burroughs scored three runs in an inning in which the Indians collected only one hit in taking a 4-1 advantage.
“It was that third inning, where we had a streak of three errors, where we really lost our focus,” Glendale High first-year Coach Greg Martin said. “Burroughs is an excellent team fundamentally and they took advantage of every single one of our errors.”
The Indians proved that statement true an inning later when they tacked on five runs and rolled to a 9-1 advantage after four.
Burroughs commenced with back-to-back doubles from Kailanie Oasay and leadoff batter Michelle Santiago that plated one run.
A walk to Ortega (two runs) was followed by another infield error that allowed Santiago to score as Burroughs plated three more runs on a run-scoring single from Okimoto (two runs and one RBI) and consecutive run-scoring outs from Aimee Rodriguez and Delaney Nicol.
“We started in the back of the [batter’s] box and [Lousararian] was pitching low, so we kept on popping everything up early,” said Santiago, the team’s catcher who batted two for four with a double, two RBI and one run. “We started to move up to the front and she was pitching it fat and we just put the ball in play.”
An inning later, the Indians initiated the 10-run mercy rule thanks to two runs, the first coming when Sanitago singled home Tori Talavera, who led off the inning with a triple.
Santiago moved to third on an error and then scored with one out on a sacrifice fly from Amanda Flores to cap the game in the bottom of the fifth.
The sacrifice fly also secured the victory for Steward (4-2), who allowed one run on two hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
The contest’s conclusion ran counter to Glendale’s early surge.
The Nitros took advantage of a shaky start from Steward, who walked the bases loaded with one out, but induced a 6-2 fielder’s choice to record a second out without a run.
Steward, however, followed with a free pass to Glendale sophomore Grace Sinisterra, which forced home Alex Howard with the team’s lone run in the first.
Steward may have been in bigger trouble in the inning if not for some defensive help from right fielder Ortega, who snagged a two-hop screamer off the bat of Glendale’s Rachel Bartamian and fired to first baseman Talavera to record an inning-ending out at first.
“That was a big defensive play,” Martin said. “If we get that hit there and open up this game a little bit more, maybe it’s a different outcome.
“But we didn’t get that hit and we just made too many mistakes to win today.”
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.