LANCASTER — The bond that the Burbank senior Little League All-Star softball team members created has lasted over the years, and within the connection to one another are traits such as trust, maturity and a complete understanding of the game.
Those aspects have culminated into District 16 and Section 2 titles, and, ultimately, a chance to qualify for the Western Regional Tournament in Montana in the state championship game against Los Angeles on Wednesday.
In a rematch at the Parkview Little League field, the Media City defense went down the lineup and immediately took an aggressive approach at the plate.
The Burbank batters and fielders performed their duties well, blanking Los Angeles, 10-0, and capture the divisional title and be crowned state champion.
“I’ve had some of these girls since they were 6 years old and we’re coming to an end so it’s kind of bittersweet,” Burbank manager Rocco Buffolino said. “We love to win, but now we know there’s one more. That could be the end. I don’t want it to be the end. I don’t think it’s going to be the end, but who knows. It’s a funny game.”
Burbank previously defeated Los Angeles, the District 18 and Section 3 champion, 17-6, on Sunday.
Los Angeles won, 11-7, over Apple Valley, the District 49 and Section 8 champion, to set up Wednesday’s rematch.
The victory books Burbank a ticket to the Western Regional Tournament which begins July 19. Burbank will face seven teams in the week-long tournament.
“They’re all a year older,” Buffolino said. “They’re all matured. They all understand the game more and the proof is in the pudding on what’s going on out here.
“The kid makes an error at shortstop on a ground ball that she knows she should have made and then she makes a fantastic play and she doubles them up. In the past, we might have sat back and said ‘Woes is me,’ but now, no. [It’s] ‘I’m going to get the next one’ and that comes with maturity.”
Burbank starting pitcher Ann Buffolino tossed a one-hitter over six innings, striking out 10, on her way to a complete-game effort. At the plate, Buffolino recorded three hits (a home run, single and double), drove in four runs and scored two runs.
Lead-off batter Kaelyn Freed kicked the game off with a home run and added a double to finish with two hits, two RBI and two runs scored.
The Burbank offense also received a fine effort from pinch-hitter Joselyn Recelle, who had a home run in her first at-bat in the fifth inning and had two RBI. Burbank third baseman Lily Stell hit two doubles and a single for one RBI and three runs scored, Catcher Clarisa Robles recorded two hits and an RBI and right fielder Victoria Sanchez and pinch-hitter Briyana Ampie each scored one run.
“We really worked as a team today, especially in our hitting,” Ann Buffolino said. “The other day, we just hit a bunch of home runs and everybody just kept going, but today, we really worked as a team. We got runners on base and everybody was hitting [well]. It was really good to see us work together.
“We just came out and played our game from the beginning until the end. We had good defense and we had good hitting.”
Buffolino retired eight consecutive batters and struck out five in the first three innings.
At the plate, Freed blasted a solo shot on the second pitch to give Burbank its first run.
Stell singled and reached third on a throwing error and a passed ball before Buffolino drove her home with a single for a 2-0 lead.
Robles struck a two-out double to score Buffolino to extend the lead to 3-0.
“We played our game and it was a team effort,” Freed said. “If you look at the score, that’s obviously a team effort. We couldn’t have done it alone. We worked as a team.
“I think everything worked for us. We just had the mentality that we were going to win and we used that. We ended up winning.”
Sanchez started the four-run second inning with a single, and two straight doublesat the top of the order drove in a pair of runs to make it 5-0.
With a runner on second, Buffolino homered to give Burbank a 7-0 lead.
“We worked together and we pumped each other up,” Sanchez said. “We were always making sure we were all happy and good with each other, never putting each other down.”
Buffolino held a no-hit bid for 4 2/3 innings before a two-out single from Los Angeles center fielder Roxanne Padilla ended the pitcher’s bid.
Recelle registered a two-run home run to give the Media City a 9-0 advantage.
Stell led off the sixth with a double before Buffolino drove her home with a double to cap the scoring and the state crown.