Burbank area softball teams trying to repeat success

There was a great deal of success enjoyed by the four local softball teams during the 2012 season.

Burroughs High and Bellarmine-Jefferson captured league championships. Providence remained in the running for a share of a league title until the final regular season contest and Burbank was still in contention for a crown up until the final week of the Pacific League campaign.

Bell-Jeff went on to play in its second consecutive CIF Southern Section Division VII championship game and the Bulldogs made an impressive run to the Division III quarterfinals

Heading into the 2013 season, three of the squads are dealing with their share of departures. Like the Pioneers, the Indians lost some key contributors to graduation. However, Burroughs has also had to deal with situation of players deciding not to come out for the team.

The Guards are dealing with another predicament completely. Although the squad did lose All-Area player Jaylen Watson, who moved, the team has also endured a rash of injuries that will have a group of athletes sidelined for the start of the season.

The lone team that isn’t dealing with those problems is Burbank. Most of the Bulldogs return this season, and many are picking them to be the favorites in the Pacific League.

Here is a closer look at the teams.


Under coach Nicole Drabecki, Burbank (23-7) rolled to the quarterfinals for the first time in two decades, despite getting the No. 3 seed from the Pacific League after tying for second place.

In the playoffs, the Bulldogs defeated La Reina, 1-0, in the first round before earning a 1-0 win against Downey in the second round. Burbank fell in the quarterfinals, however, to Bishop Amat, 10-4.

The lone contributor lost to graduation from that squad was All-Area infielder Nalani Hernandez.

“We definitely have the talent on this team this season,” Drabecki said. “We have four seniors on this team who obviously have never won a Pacific League title or a CIF title, so we will be looking to hopefully do both if we can.”

A lot of those aspirations will rest on the arm of sophomore pitcher Caitlyn Brooks, who earned first-team All-CIF, All-Area and all-league accolades a year ago. Brooks made an instant impact with the Bulldogs, notching a 16-5 record and a 1.95 earned-run average to go along with 180 strikeouts in 147 innings. She was just as impressive at the plate, with a .429 average, 23 runs batted in and 22 runs.

“I’ve seen a lot of pitchers over the years as a coach, and I’ll tell you, Caitlyn is just a special player,” Drabecki said. “For being so young, she is just a seasoned pitcher and she has improved so much from last season. She is the one who is going to lead us this season. I’m amazed by her.”

Brooks is not the only talent returning for the Bulldogs. Senior Katie Hooper — who is headed to Cal State Northridge — will move from the outfield to second base. A year ago, the All-CIF standout hit .467 with 42 hits, 39 RBI and 11 home runs. In addition, the senior scored 45 runs, had a .533 on-base percentage and a .967 slugging percentage.

The roster will also feature returners Laina Do (.444, 36 hits, 27 RBI, 27 runs scored, 20 stolen bases in 20 attempts), a senior shortstop who is headed to Yale, senior outfielder Ashley Russo (.377, 29 hits, 17 RBI), senior first baseman Tiffany Pisa, sophomore third baseman Lily Winn and sophomore catcher Bridgette Pisa.

“The key to doing well in the playoffs is that you have to have the experience and you need to be confident,” Drabecki said. “We’re hoping that last year’s experience in the playoffs is going to pay off for us this year. What we went through last year can only make our team better.”

Drabecki said she is hoping to fill outfield spots with players from the junior varsity squad.

With their share of experience, Drabecki said she is hoping her Bulldogs will finally be able to get over the hump and win a league championship.

“We have been right there the last three seasons and we just couldn’t win it,” she said. “We also haven’t had success against Burroughs in a while. Hopefully we can change that as well.”


The Indians come into the season after winning or sharing the Pacific League championship the last three years. But ask coach Doug Nicol who should be the favorite to nail down a title this season and he’s quick to respond.

“Burbank definitely has a bull’s eye on its back this season,” said Nicol, whose team went 24-4 last season and fell in the first round of the playoffs to North Torrance, 7-4. “Talent wise, experience wise and pitching wise, they are the favorites without a doubt. No one should be able to beat them. But we’ll have to just wait and see.”

Lost to graduation was pitcher Haley Schulman, last season’s league player of the year and All-CIF selection. Schulman notched a 17-4 record and a 2.15 ERA in 136 2/3 innings. In addition, she struck out 137 batters. She also batted .354 and had 28 hits and drove in 17 runs.

The program also saw the graduation of catcher Shannon Trujillo (.429 with 33 hits, 27 RBI, 10 doubles, five home runs, 28 runs scored and a .805 slugging percentage).

But graduation wasn’t the only thing that has compromised the Burroughs roster. A few players have either transferred or decided not to play. One of those players is sophomore Davina Del Castillo (.378 with 31 hits, 22 RBI, three home runs, 16 runs).

“It’s just disappointing because we thought we had the players in place just a week or two ago and now we have to change some things around,” Nicol said. “We are probably going to go with a lot of different lineups until we find the right combination.”

With Schulman gone, Nicol is going to hand the ball over in the circle to senior Brice Edrington and junior Aimee Rodriguez.

Key returners for the Indians will be sophomore catcher Michelle Santiago, junior outfielders Sidney Ortega and Cheyenne Steward. Also adding to the mix will be freshman shortstop Kaitlin Okimoto, sophomore shortstop Kailanie Oasay, sophomore outfielder Dominique Santos and junior outfielder Jessica Little.

“With Burbank the favorite this year, I think it will be us, [Crescenta Valley] and Arcadia battling it out for the rest of the playoff spots,” Nicol said.


With the season approaching, the Guards resemble more of a MASH unit than a softball team.

“Oh boy, injuries have really hit is hard,” Bell-Jeff Coach Florencio Galindo said. “It’s going to be a few weeks into the season until we’re going to get some of our key players back. But once we get over these injuries, we should be fine.”

The Guards are coming off a 2012 campaign in which they went 23-6-3 and captured their third straight Santa Cruz League title. Bell-Jeff also advanced to the Division VII championship game for the second consecutive season, losing to Pomona Catholic, 1-0.

Bell-Jeff did lose outfielder Jaylen Watson (.452, 31 RBI, 33 runs scored), who moved out of the area.

However, returning to lead Bell-Jeff is junior pitcher Mia Acosta, who earned All-CIF honors last season. The Santa Cruz League Player of the Year allowed just one run in the playoffs and none in league play, while posting a 13-3 overall record.

“We are going to have to rely on Mia a lot,” Galindo said. “But she is injured right now and we’re not sure when she is going to be coming back.”

The coach said Acosta has been dealing with an injured knee.

Also returning to give the Guards some punch at the plate is junior Sofia Palacios (.593, 36 RBI, 18 extra-base hits), who will play first base. Another dangerous offensive weapon for the Guards is senior shortstop Monique Landini, who is headed to St. John’s.

Rounding out the returning group is junior second baseman Tiffany Galindo, junior third baseman Cristina Colon, junior catcher Sofia Casarez, sophomore outfielder Jessica Pereyra, junior outfielder Priscilla Panizo and sophomore outfielder Alexis Lopez.

“In league, I think St. Matthias should be tough, but I wouldn’t be surprised if St. Genevieve also has a good team,” Florencio Galindo said. “But we want to be right up there again for a league title.”


The Pioneers (8-10-1) had a chance to earn a share of the league championship up until the final day of the regular season. However, they were defeated by champion Viewpoint, 9-1.

In the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division VII playoffs, Providence fell to No. 2 Faith Baptist, 16-0.

“We have three seniors coming back and basically one junior,” Providence Coach Joel Curtis said. “I have two juniors, but one has never really played. So, we’re going to be young.”

All-league players, infielder Jackie Brewer (.419, 40 RBI, 30 runs, five home runs), senior utility player Gian-Mari Llaguno (.455, 22 RBI, 23 runs) and senior pitcher Caitie Guttry (6-6 with a 1.72 earned-run average and 89 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings) all graduated.

The key returning junior for the Pioneers is Sierra Nelson, who will be the team’s starting pitcher.

“Sierra is getting better as a pitcher every day and that’s all that we can ask for,” Curtis said.

Also returning are junior catcher Phylizia Carrillo, senior middle infielder Ashley Corral, senior middle infielder Estelle Glorioso, sophomore third baseman/outfielder Allison Menendez, sophomore outfielder Dominique Dominguez, sophomore first baseman Meghan Mai and sophomore outfielder Salina Hasrouty.

A newcomer who could see playing time is sophomore Victoria Abuyog.

With Viewpoint no longer in the league, Curtis is hopeful that his Pioneers can vie for a championship again this season.

“If Sierra is on and she pitches the way I know that she can, I think we’ve got a good shot,” he said.

“Viewpoint’s not in our league any more, so that’s good. But we’ll have to beat Faith [Baptist] and we’ll have to beat Trinity [Classical Academy], but I think we have the talent to be up there with them.”

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