BURBANK HIGH — Francisco Baez has done his share of damage in the Pacific League this season.
Baez, a senior midfielder for the Burroughs High boys’ soccer team, has helped lead the Indians to resurgence in the second half of league play.
The speedy player’s talents were on display once again Thursday in a league contest against host Burbank. Baez tallied a natural hat trick to propel the Indians to a 4-0 cross-town rivalry win against the Bulldogs.
It was Baez’ third hat trick in league this season. In addition, he has tallied 18 goals in Pacific League play, besting the Burroughs all-time mark of 15 league goals scored set in 1993 by former All-American Roberto Perez in a 10-game Foothill League season.
“To set the school record for goals in league is quite an accomplishment,” Burroughs Coach Mike Kodama said. “You look at the list of players that he passed up and there are some very good athletes on that list. But he’s come a long way this season and he’s worked for it.”
Baez was quick to give much of the credit for his success to his teammates.
“It’s so astonishing to see what these guys do,” he said. “I’m just so thankful for my teammates because they are the ones who make everything happen. I’m so proud of them. We work hard together, on and off the field. I thank them a lot.”
Burroughs (9-8-4, 8-3-3 in league) already had second placed in league secured entering the match. The Indians finished behind champion Crescenta Valley (12-0-2 in league).
However, Burbank (7-7-2, 6-6-2) was fighting for its final league standing Thursday. Burbank was in third place, one point ahead of Pasadena. But by Pasadena beating Muir, 2-1, on Friday, it ends up in third place with 22 points and Burbank finishes fourth with 20.
Although disappointed with the loss, Burbank first-year Coach Loi Phan said his team can be proud of the fact that it qualified for the playoffs this season after missing the postseason the two previous years.
“This team has come a long way this season,” Phan said. “I told the guys after the game that what I like most is that they stayed together the whole year. We didn’t have the discipline problems this year and the guys were out there battling every game.”
It took the Indians just six minutes to jump out in front. Jessie Valdez delivered a hard shot that beat Burbank goalkeeper Ryan Tiegs low and to the right for the match’s first score.
Baez struck for his first goal in the 25th minute and Burroughs went into halftime with a 2-0 cushion.
“When they scored that second goal, that was it,” Phan said. “I knew it was going to be hard for us to come back after that.”
The Indians received a solid performance from their defense, namely midfielders Kevin Garcia and KC Aquino, defender Ozzie Castro and goalkeeper Elliott Whitecotton.
Baez scored again in the 68th minute on an assist from Alex Avelar-Escalante and again in the 73rd minute.
Burroughs and Burbank will find out who their playoff opponents will be when the pairings are released Monday by the CIF Southern Section Office.