The players and coaches of the Burbank Major Softball All-Star team were naturally disappointed when they were knocked out in the semifinals of last year's Western Region Tournament.
The loss extinguished the Burbank Little League squad's chances of qualifying for the Little League Softball World Series.
Trying to find a positive in the wake of the defeat, Burbank found solace in the fact that the majority of the team would be returning, and hopefully it would get another shot at making the international tournament in 2010.
In the year since that semifinal loss, Burbank has gained a wealth of experience, participating in tough tournaments and played games against talented teams.
All the preparation was because the team wanted another crack at the World Series.
In what was sweet redemption for the locals, they captured the championship of this season's Western Regional Tournament on Sunday. That victory brought with it an automatic berth in the 2010 Little League Softball World Series.
It is the first time a team — baseball or softball — in the nine-year history of the Burbank Little League has been able to qualify for the World Series.
"I told the girls before the championship game [Sunday] that they have gotten this far because they have played as a team all year," Burbank Manager Bruce Del Castillo said. "I reminded them that we have been successful not because of one player or a couple of players, but it's the result of all 12 players working together."
That motivation helped Burbank notch an 11-3 win in the championship game against Oregon in a game at the Fort Vancouver Little League Fields in Fort Vancouver, Wash.
Because the Word Series takes place this week in Portland, Ore., Burbank didn't fly home following the regional tournament.
"[Little League] sent limos to pick up the girls [Tuesday]," Del Castillo said. "They are putting up our players and coaches in hotels and they are paying for the whole thing. It's really a great experience for the girls."
The players arrived at the complex Tuesday. Today the athletes will take part in opening ceremonies at 3 p.m. and indulge in an ice cream social. That will be followed by a skills challenge.
The World Series games begin Thursday and will be played at Alpenrose Stadium in Portland. Burbank kicks off the tournament in the opening game at 2 p.m. Thursday in a pool-play game against Puerto Rico.
Burbank is in Pool A, which also includes Poland, Ohio (Poland Community Little League), British Columbia (Layritz Little League) and Brenham, Texas (Washington County Little League).
Pool B includes teams from Robbinsville, N.J., Warner Robins, Ga., Tigard, Ore. and Wroclaw, Poland.
"I think the girls are ready," Del Castillo said of the tournament. "They are focused and they have been playing really well the last few weeks." We just have to keep playing our type of game and do what we've been doing all season."
Following its opener, Burbank will be back in action at 8 p.m. Friday in a pool-play game against British Columbia. The locals will continue pool play at 9:45 a.m. Saturday with a contest against Brenham, Texas and finish the round with a 2:30 p.m. game Sunday against Poland, Ohio.
The semifinals will begin Tuesday and the championship contest will be at 4 p.m. Aug. 18. Those games will be broadcast on ESPN2.
If its success in the regional is any indication, Burbank is playing the best softball of the season. In six Western Region Tournament games, the locals outscored their opponents, 64-8. The three runs they surrendered in the championship game against Oregon were the most the squad gave up in a single contest. In the other five games, Burbank allowed just one run in each game.
In the title game, Michelle Santiago was three for three with two doubles, a triple, five runs batted in and three runs scored, Delaney Nicol was two for four with two runs scored and Denise Daniel was two for two with two RBI.
Davina Del Castillo got the win, striking out five in six innings.
In a semifinal game Saturday, Burbank easily defeated Northern California, 10-1. Ashton Aikens had two RBI.
Burbank is hoping to keep a highly successful season alive. Along with winning the District 16 championship, Burbank also captured its second straight Division 3 title.