OLIVE PARK — OLIVE PARK — It was one of the most significant games in the long and storied rivalry between the Burroughs High and Burbank softball programs.
The teams came into Thursday’s contest with a combined 25-2 record and both the Indians and Bulldogs sat atop the Pacific League standings, neither having suffered a defeat in league play. In addition, both squads realized the winner would likely have the inside track to this season’s league title.
The game definitely lived up to the hype, as Burbank enjoyed a one-run lead over the two-time defending champions heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. But Burroughs was able to pull off some heroics in the final frame, and when senior Caitlin Loera laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt with one out that scored pinch runner Sidney Ortega, the Indians rejoiced in a 4-3 walk-off win in front of a packed crowd at Olive Park.
With the win, Burroughs (14-1, 6-0 in league) — ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division III — remains as the lone unbeaten team in league.
With the pressure on against the cross-town rival Bulldogs (12-2, 5-0), Loera did what was asked of her at the plate, and it paid dividends.
“There was just a lot of stuff going trough my head at that point,” said Loera, who was pulled aside by Coach Doug Nicol prior her at bat and told to pull off the bunt on the second pitch by Burbank starter Caitlyn Brooks. “I wasn’t really that nervous, though, I just wanted to make something happen.
“If it hadn’t been me it would have been someone else on the team. We always seem to come through.”
Trailing, 3-2, the Indians committed the first out of the inning when Brooks forced Megan McKenna to ground out to second. The next batter, Brice Edrington, hit a grounder up the first-base line. Burbank first baseman Crystal Diaz had to tag the runner to get the out, but on contact Edrington knocked the ball out of Diaz’s glove and ended up at second base.
After Allie Grimaldo walked, she was replaced on first by Ortega. That brought up Burroughs’ leadoff hitter, freshman Michelle Santiago. Santiago connected with a 3-1 pitch, sending it into right field to plate Edrington from second to tie the score at 3.
With Ortega standing at third, Loera took the first pitch she saw for a ball. On the next offering, she squared and delivered a bunt on the right side that was fielded by Brooks. However, with Ortega charging hard from third, she slid in safely with the winning run.
“Everyone expects you to bunt on the first pitch, that’s why we wanted Caitlin to wait to do it on the second pitch,” Nicol said. “I think when she took that first pitch the other team might have relaxed a little thinking the squeeze wasn’t on. Then she came through with an incredible bunt.
“It was an incredible moment for a senior who has worked so hard this year. I’m so proud of Caitlin.”
After the Bulldogs stranded Brooks on third base following a lead-off triple in the first inning, the Indians took an early lead in the second when McKenna delivered a base hit to right scoring Aimee Rodriguez.
Burbank tied the score in the fourth after Ashley Russo walked and came around to score on a single by Diaz.
The Bulldogs went up, 3-1, with a run in the top of the fifth before Burroughs pushed across a run of their own in the bottom portion of the frame.
“The loss is definitely frustrating,” Burbank Coach Nicole Drabecki said. “But that just tells me that I have to work harder and the team has to work harder to try and get over the hump. We had them on the ropes, but we made some mistakes and that really cost us.”
Lily Winn went two for four for Burbank and McKenna was two for three for Burroughs.