THOUSAND OAKS — The Burbank High softball team isn’t very representative of a typical No. 3 league squad in the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
The Bulldogs were in the hunt for the Pacific League championship until the final regular-season game and although they tied Crescenta Valley for second place, they went into the playoffs as the third seed.
La Reina, which captured the Tri-Valley League title after defeating powerhouse Oaks Christian, found out once again how formidable Burbank can be in a Division III game Thursday.
Behind a stellar three-hit pitching performance from freshman Caitlyn Brooks, the Bulldogs received all the offense they would need with a solo home run from Katie Hooper to defeat the host Regents, 1-0, in a first-round game.
“We thought we had a team that could contend in the playoffs,” Burbank Coach Nicole Drabecki said. “This is a team that has a lot of heart.”
It was the second win this season for Burbank against La Reina, as the Bulldogs earned an 8-0 victory earlier in the season in the Thousand Oaks Tournament.
The Bulldogs (22-6) move on to the second round of the playoffs for first time in four years. They downed Culver City, 9-0, in their postseason opener in 2008 and fell to Rancho Alamitos, 3-2, in the second round.
Burbank will compete in the second round Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. against either Downey or Heritage at a site to be determined.
Brooks came through with a steady performance and received rock-solid backup from a defense that didn’t commit an error and was able to turn two double plays. Brooks allowed single hits in the third, fifth and sixth innings, struck out six and walked two.
Despite playing in her first playoff game, Brooks said she wasn’t nervous.
“I felt confident going in, especially because we beat them last time and I knew we could do it again,” Brooks said. “My change-up was working and I just tried to bring everything back in and tried to make them see the kinds of pitches I wanted them to see.”
Brooks’ counterpart in the circle, senior Christine Costello, also threw a fine game. She surrendered just three hits, as well, striking out three and walking three.
However, one of the three hits turned out to be a back-breaker. In the top of the third inning with two outs, Hooper — a senior who earned All-CIF Southern Section accolades last season — worked the count to 2-1 against Costello. Hooper then connected on the next offering, sending a screaming liner over the right-center field fence, the ball still rising as it cleared the ivy-covered barrier.
“I noticed that the pitcher was throwing outside, so I told myself to wait on it and take it in the opposite direction,” Hooper said. “I’ve been trying all season to hit the ball hard and it’s worked out very well for me.”
The Regents (17-9) just couldn’t get their offense rolling throughout the contest. In the first inning, Dani Marietta walked with one out and then Costello hit a sharp grounder to shortstop. Burbank got the lead runner at second and then made it a double play when Costello fell down after crossing first and was tagged out.
Marissa Marietta led off the second with a walk and was moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt. However, Brooks retired the next two batters on strikeouts.
In the fifth, La Reina’s Delany Kaupp led off the inning with a base hit through the left side. But again the Burbank defense came up big, turning a 1-6-3 double play. Brooks ended the ending by inducing a groundout to second.
The Regents also advanced a runner to second in the sixth with one out, but Brooks struck out Dani Marietta and got Costello to ground out to end the threat.
Burbank endured some baserunning problems, as two runners were thrown out at second and a third was picked off first base.
“I thought it was going to be a close game,” Drabecki said. “It’s playoff time and teams really want to win and I think although we only got three hits today we got the one that counted. I just thought our defense played great and that really helped our pitching.”
Laina Do and Brooks had singles for Burbank. Nalani Hernandez had three walks for Burbank.