BURBANK — For the past three years, Burbank High softball Coach Nicole Drabecki thought her team had enough talent to win a Pacific League championship.
However, in each of the last three seasons, those title hopes were crushed by cross-town rival Burroughs, which has captured three consecutive league crowns.
After Thursday's clash against the Indians, Drabecki and the Bulldogs might just be headed for the elusive championship.
Behind a 14-strikeout performance by sophomore pitcher Caitlyn Brooks, Burbank was able to notch a 3-0 win at McCambridge Park in the first of two meetings this season between the rivals.
The win for Burbank (14-1, 7-0 in league) — ranked No. 1 in CIF Southern Section Division III — gives it the inside track to the league title. Burbank hasn't captured a championship since 1987, when it was a member of the Foothill League.
"The last time I beat Burroughs was in 2008, and we beat them twice that season," said Drabecki, who is in her seventh season. "I had no idea that it was going to take five years to finally beat them again in what I think is nine attempts. We definitely had some heartbreakers and lost some one-run games during those years.
"But it feels good to finally be able to defeat them."
The loss is only the second in league for Burroughs (13-6, 5-2), which also fell to Crescenta Valley.
It looked as if the Indians were going to put pressure on the Bulldogs early when Michelle Santiago opened the game with a triple she roped down the right-field line. After Brooks notched a strikeout, Kaitlin Okimoto came to the plate. The freshman hit a soft liner in the air to Brooks, who fired to third to double off Santiago.
"Our problem was that we just couldn't string enough hits together to score runs," Burroughs Coach Doug Nicol said. "I am just really proud of my team and the way that they played. We just didn't have the bounces go our way and they scored their runs on either walks or errors. It could have easily been a 1-0 or 2-0 game."
After the lead-off hit, Brooks bore down and seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. She ended up surrendering three hits.
Brooks said she was motivated by playing against the rival Indians.
"I get up against them in a way, my confidence gets up and I think I pitch better," said Brooks, who has 195 strikeouts on the year. "I just get really excited playing against them."
Burbank got all the runs it would need in the second inning. It started with a quality at-bat from Lily Winn, who worked an 0-2 count into a walk to start the inning. Winn then stole second and smartly tagged up and advanced to third on a foul out in back of first base. Winn scored on a perfectly placed bunt in between first and second by Julia Duarte.
After Durate was replaced by pinch-runner Allyson Capili, the Bulldogs made it 2-0 following a triple down the right-field line by Cal State Northridge-bound Katie Hooper.
Hooper was two for four and also scored a run.
Hooper also came up with a hit in the fourth inning and scored on a run-scoring single by Jazmin Orozco.
Burroughs threatened in the fourth inning when Cheyenne Steward powered a two-out triple to right field. But Brooks got out of the jam and ended the inning with a strikeout.
Santiago also singled and stole second in the third inning with two outs. But she was left stranded on a groundout.
Santiago was two for three with a stolen base for the Indians.
"We have had problems with dealing with pressure situations in the past," Drabecki said. "But we have been working on dealing with those kinds of situations in practice. Hopefully that's paying off for us."