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Burbank Junior softball claims division championship

Burbank Junior softball claims division championship
Burbank pitcher Annie Buffolino rushes to a teammate to celebrate a victory over Westchester Del Rey in the Little League State Division Junior Championship softball game at Tujunga Little League Fields on Thursday. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

TUJUNGA — Burbank Little League Junior All-Stars softball player Memorie Munoz has enjoyed her share of championship success the past three years.

Coming into this season, the shortstop was a member of Burbank teams that captured two Major Division titles and one Junior Division crown.

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Munoz made it four straight championships Thursday when her team won the State Division Junior Championship with a 3-0 victory against Westchester Del Rey at Tujunga Little League Ballfields.

"I think winning it this year means the most to me because this is my last chance to try and make it to the Little League World Series," said Munoz, who was a freshman for the 2017 Burroughs High co-Pacific League championship team. "Although this was a close game, we really fought through it and I'm glad we were successful. But that's how this team is, we never give up and we're always there for each other."

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Munoz was two for four with a run scored and two stolen bases.

"The kid's just a fantastic ball player," Burbank coach Rocco Buffolino said. "I give her the green light on everything. She is just such a smart player and she knows how to play the game."

Along with receiving a steady outing from starting pitcher Annie Buffolino, Burbank, the District 16 representative and Section 2 champion, benefited from solid defense that kept Westchester Del Rey (District 11, Section 4 champion) off the board.

Buffolino went the distance for the shutout, giving up seven hits while striking out six and walking two.

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Burbank moves on to play in the Junior Western Regional Tournament in Tucson, Ariz. with the opening round set for Thursday.

In two postseason tournaments, Burbank has a 5-0 record and had outscored opponents, 47-12.

Trailing, 3-0, Westchester put the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs. Weschester's Zoe Acker came to the plate with runners over every base and hit a sharp ball to third base. The ball skipped in front of Burbank's Keelyn Freed, who went to her left, snagged the ball and fell to her knees on the hard-hit offering. Freed was able to spring to her feet and just beat the runner to third for the final out of the game.

In the fifth, a smart play by right fielder Daniella Gray saved a run. With two outs and a runner on third, Westchester's Pilar Cota Levin hit a bullet into right field for what looked like a single. But Gray charged the ball, took it on a hop and fired it to first to catch Cota Livin for the out.

"When I have that kind of defense behind me, it's so much easier to play the game and it's such a relief." Annie Buffolino said. "Sometimes when I'm getting tired and it's late in the game, it's always great to know that we have a defense that is going to help me out.

"That play at the end of the game by Daniella was huge. She really saved the game for us."

Burbank got on the board early, taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Munoz reached base on a fielder's choice and scored the game's first run on a wild pitch. Buffolino also reached on a fielder's choice and was plated on a groundout by Freed.

Burbank made it 3-0 in the fourth when Makaiya Bedford reached on a fielder's choice and scored on a groundout from Buffolino.

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"We didn't swing the bats all that great today, but we did enough to win," Rocco Buffolino said. "That's going to happen sometimes.

"But I thought Annie did a good job pitching and our defense came through."

Twitter: @jefftsports

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