MCCAMBRIDGE PARK — In five years at the helm, Burbank High softball Coach Nicole Drabecki has not seen a Bulldogs team advance further into the postseason than this year’s installment.
So when Caitlyn Brooks delivered her final strikeout of the afternoon on Tuesday, securing a 1-0 win over visiting Downey, Drabecki embraced her star pitcher with plenty of jubilation.
Brooks’ two-hitter, coupled with an RBI single by Ashley Russo in the bottom of the sixth inning, propelled Burbank to the CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinals on Thursday, when it will face Bishop Amat, which defeated Torrance, 4-1.
“This win is tremendous for my program,” Drabecki said. “Honestly, Burbank has not done well in playoff time, other than 1975. So we’re way overdue and absolutely thrilled.
“For us, it’s the fact that we’ve made it this far, that we’re still winning and we feel we could keep going. We know with each round we go, it’s going to get more and more difficult. But I just feel like nothing could stop us but ourselves.”
The Bulldogs won a CIF championship in the aforementioned 1975 season and after finishing in a second-place tie in the Pacific League, but getting a third-place seed they are well on their way of making a run at CIF glory, having advanced further than any of Drabecki’s previous charges.
It was a pitchers’ duel for most of the game at McCambridge Park, with Downey’s Ale Guillen allowing only two hits through five innings.
But in the sixth inning, Guillen surrendered two hits that wound up being the deciding factor.
Burbank’s Laina Do led off the inning with a single and the stole second for her 20th stolen base of the season. Then after a strikeout, Russo whacked an RBI single past Guillen and the second baseman, driving in Do for the go-ahead run.
“They’re a good team,” Russo said. “It just came down to one hit.”
In seven innings, Guillen, a junior, yielded four hits and three walks. Brooks (16-4), a freshmen, struck out five and allowed only two hits and no walks.
Burbank (23-6) came close to scoring in the opening inning, with Katie Hopper on third base. But the Vikings (22-7-1) caught a flyout to right field for a third out. Hopper got on third again in the third with a triple to left-center field, but no other Bulldog got a hit that inning, stranding the junior outfielder.
Hooper finished one for one with a triple and two full-count walks.
Do, a junior shortstop, finished one for two with a walk and the pivotal stolen base.
Nalani Hernandez and Russo also finished with a hit apiece.
“It’s the playoffs and teams are supposed to be tight and it’s supposed to be pressure-oriented,” Drabecki said, “and I’m just glad we had that great hit that pushed ahead and that’s all we needed.
“This was a great pitchers’ duel. Those girls want to show they’re the best, and they want to show those hitters aren’t better than them. And I felt that’s how the game was. We just happened to get lucky, and sometimes that’s what you need in playoffs. One lucky hit, one lucky steal in a 1-0 game.”