BURBANK — Heading into the second half of the Pacific League season, the Burbank High and Burroughs baseball teams have something in common: they are tied for the league lead.
As the teams navigate their way through their final games, both will be trying to erase years of futility when it comes to capturing league championships. While the Bulldogs haven't won a title since 1991, the Indians' last crown came in 1997 — both coming in the Foothill League.
Burbank climbed into the first-place ranks Friday by winning a slugfest against cross-town rival Burroughs. The teams combined for five home runs, with a three-run shot in the fifth by the Bulldogs' Ricky Perez — his second of the night — proving to be the difference in an 8-6 Burbank victory at home.
The Burbank (11-7, 6-1 in league) win against Burroughs (12-8, 6-1), coupled with a win by Arcadia (14-6, 5-2) on Friday against Crescenta Valley (13-7, 5-2), puts the two city teams atop the league standings.
"We woke up in first place this morning and we'll go to sleep tonight still in first place," Burroughs Coach Kiel Holmes said. "But the rest of the way, we can't rely on anyone else to help us out. We need to just control our own destiny and we have to play hard the rest of the way."
Although his team is in the thick of the league-championship race, Burbank Coach Bob Hart isn't one to talk about the situation to his players.
"No, that's not something that we bring up," Hart said. "We just play this game and move on to the next one."
The Bulldogs will be able to move on in first place thanks to the effort of Perez, a senior center fielder. Perez started with a solo home run in the second inning and added a three-run blast — both over the short porch in right-center field — in the fifth to provide the eventual winning margin.
In all, five balls left the yard Friday, every one of them hit to right-center. Burbank's Harry Hernandez had a solo shot in the second inning; Burroughs' Akira Abderrahman hit a three-run homer in the first and teammate Brian Pozos delivered a two-run shot in the sixth.
"The first one that I hit I was just trying to protect and I stuck my bat out and it went over," Perez said. "But the second one I hit pretty hard and it went out."
With a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth with one out, Hernandez reached base on an error. Hector Rodriguez followed with a walk and the bases were cleared with Perez' blast.
Burroughs put pressure on the Bulldogs early, jumping out in front with four runs in the top of the first inning. With one out, Miles Haded was hit by a pitch from Burbank starter Angel Villagran. Patrick Christopher then drew a walk and Cameron Rodriguez reached on an error to load the bases. Pozos then hit into a fielder's choice to score Haddad. The Indians went up, 4-0, when Abderrahman took Villagran deep for a three-run tally.
However, Burbank battled back. In its half of the second, Hernandez and Perez both homered with one out. Angel Roman followed by reaching base on an error and Sebby Santoro legged out an infield single. Roman and Santoro were able to score when CC Okimoto roped a double to left-center field.
The Bulldogs made it 5-4 when Okimoto came home on a run-scoring single to right field by John White.
"I was really impressed with our guys and the way they were able to respond after getting behind early," Hart said. "To me, that was a character moment for us. When you chase four like that early, you can either go hide or you can show up, and they definitely didn't hide."
Trailing, 8-4, the Indians scored two runs in the sixth. Rodriguez singled and Pozos delivered a two-run home run.
Burroughs didn't go quietly in the seventh inning and actually had the tying run on base after Chris Davies singled to right field and Christopher was hit by a pitch with two outs. However, a strikeout ended the threat.
"What we did to come back today is what championship teams do," Perez said. "We know we can do this in league."