MCCAMBRIDGE PARK — When the Burbank High softball team’s offense came up short in driving home the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning, it simply meant extra innings in an already thrilling game with rival Burroughs in a Pacific League showdown Thursday night.
Looking deeper, however, it meant giving Burroughs’ Shannon Trujillo one more opportunity to do what the slugger has been doing all season thus far for the first-place Indians — leading her team to victory.
And the result — a clutch two-run home run with the game tied that would give the Indians their biggest lead of a game at the most crucial time — didn’t come as a surprise to Burroughs Coach Doug Nicol.
“Before her at-bat, I told her there was no one I’d rather have up there,” said Nicol after an 8-4 win over host Burbank in front of a capacity crowd at McCambridge Park. “She has been clutch all season, and I knew she would come through again.”
The four-run eighth capped off a comeback for Burroughs (9-5, 5-0 in league), which was previously no-hit through four innings by Burbank starting pitcher Crystal Diaz (3-5).
The sophomore hurler’s counterpart, Heather Haynes, kept the Indians in the game while giving up two runs on two hits through four. Burbank started out well, taking a 1-0 lead on a first-inning double steal before Ashley Russo’s run-scoring second-inning single made it 2-0.
Diaz pitched seven solid innings for the Bulldogs, striking out four, but ultimately couldn’t record an out in the eighth and was pulled after giving up a double to Taylor Buliavac right after Trujillo’s blast that scored the go-ahead run for the Indians, sending Diaz to the dugout as the losing pitcher.
“I told the team that we have to come together right now,” said Trujillo of the approach going into the fifth inning, where Haley Shulman doubled for the team’s first hit of the game. “We had let Crystal control the game for so long.”
Shulman and Buliavac scored Burroughs’ first runs of the contest on another double — this one from Hailee White, who then scored herself on Allie Grimaldo’s sacrifice bunt to give the Indians a precarious 3-2 lead.
“They’re a veteran group of girls, so they hit the ball at the right times, and get all the key hits,” said Burbank Coach Nicole Drabecki, whose team fell to 4-8, 3-2.
Haynes (4-2) pitched five innings with five strikeouts, but wasn’t able to hold the 3-2 lead her offense built up. Answering Burroughs’ fifth-inning surge, Burbank leadoff hitter Katie Hooper tripled home Jenny Millo, who singled with one out, to tie the game.
Shulman relieved Haynes and pitched into trouble in the sixth, giving up a run to courtesy runner Laura Viebahn on a close play at the plate to go back ahead, 4-3. On a ball put in play by Sarah Riojas, Viebahn broke for home. Trujillo blocked the plate, but the umpire called Viebahn safe — a call that drew the ire of Nicol, but ultimately served to further build the drama of the contest.
The Indians battled back again in the seventh, scoring the game-tying run with two outs when Hooper, who had two hits and three RBIs, scored on an error.
Burbank had a chance to walk off with a win in its half of the seventh, though, but left runners stranded on first and second, setting up Trujillo and the Burroughs offense in the eighth, where Shulman and White also got in on the act with RBI singles.
The Bulldogs loaded up the bases and made it interesting in the bottom half of the eighth, but Shulman notched a strikeout to end the game.
“If there’s any group that can come back after being no-hit through four, it’s this group,” Nicol said. “They have faced a lot of adversity.”
“Whenever you get Burbank and Burroughs in any sport, this is what you’re going to get.”
Trujillo, who hit her fourth home run and drove in her 19th run of the season, called the win the biggest of her life.