BURBANK HIGH — A year ago at this time, the Burroughs High baseball team was still reeling from an underage drinking scandal that involved former coaches and players. As a result, the season was canceled and a promising campaign was extinguished.
Friday night, some of those same players who were affected by the scandal were basking in the glow of qualifying for the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
Led by a superb three-hit performance from Burroughs starting pitcher Luis Pereyra, the Indians defeated cross-town rival Burbank, 2-0, to finish fourth in the Pacific League and clinch the league's final automatic playoff spot.
First-year Burroughs Coach Kiel Holmes said he couldn't be more proud of his team's effort this season, and is especially proud of the players who came back to the program after all that occurred last season.
"You have to give the kids credit; a lot of those kids could have quit and not come back out for the team," Holmes said. "Instead of giving up they decided to come back to the team and work harder to make this team successful.
"I have 12 or 13 seniors this season, and in some way all of them have contributed to our success this season."
It was a particularly tough loss for Burbank (13-9, 10-4), which entered the game with a shot at winning a share of the league championship. However, even if the Bulldogs would have won, just a short time after their game ended Crescenta Valley (12-2 in league) clinched the outright title with a 7-0 win against Arcadia.
Burbank and Arcadia (19-7, 10-4) finish tied for second place in league. It's a huge turnaround for the Bulldogs, as well, as they failed to make the playoffs last season.
Pereyra went the distance, striking out nine and walking one. Pereyra, who used his cutter to frustrate the Burbank hitters, said he tried not to get overly excited about taking on his team's rival.
"I just tried to go out and pitch my game," he said. "But against Burbank, I've known these kids all my life, so obviously I'm going to try and do better against them."
He was involved in a fierce duel with Burbank ace Daniel Starkland, who also pitched well. The left-hander also went the distance, giving up two runs — both earned — on seven hits while striking out seven and walking one. Starkland entered the game having not allowed an earned run in 46 straight innings and ran the streak to 48 1/3 before it was halted.
The Indians (12-13, 9-5) scored all the runs they would need in the third inning. Ryan Gordon led off the inning with a double off the fence in center field. He scored on a single up the middle by Davies. With the based loaded, Brian Pozos drew a walk to bring home the second run.
"We just didn't make the plays when we had the opportunity," Burbank Coach Bob Hart said. "We had some chances, but it was just one of those nights when we didn't do well at the plate."
Burbank was able to advance runners to third in the first, third and fifth innings, but came up empty all three times.
Hart said with the playoffs set to begin next week, his team isn't going to dwell on Friday's loss to Burroughs.
"I would much rather lose to Burroughs and win four playoff games," Hart said. "I think too often people put too much emphasis on this game. But really for us, I want to try and get away from that."