ARCADIA — The last time the Burbank High softball team was able to capture a league championship was in 1987, when the Bulldogs had a premier starting pitcher in All-American Debby Day.
This season, Burbank has another outstanding hurler in sophomore Caitlyn Brooks, who is in the midst of a wildly successful season. Like Day, she has also helped guide the team to a league championship.
While the Bulldogs offense might have sputtered Friday in a Pacific League game against host Arcadia, Brooks was able to keep them in the game. The sophomore hurled a gem, going the distance to notch a no-hitter in pacing the Bulldogs to a 1-0 victory against the Apaches.
The win wraps up the first league championship for Burbank (23-2, 12-0 in league) in 26 years, when they were members of the old Foothill League. The Bulldogs earned a share of the title with the combination of their win over Pasadena and a Burroughs loss. With two games remaining in the regular season and no other teams with less than three losses, the Bulldogs — ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division III — can finish out perfect with a win at Muir on Tuesday and a win in the finale Thursday against Burroughs at Olive Park.
"I have been waiting a lot of years for this to finally happen," said Burbank Coach Nicole Drabecki, who is in her seventh season. "I think that we have proven that we are the best pitching, the best offensive and the best defensive team in the league.
"These kids knew to win a league championship they had to work hard and believe in themselves. These kids are all on board, they're focused and they're goal-driven and we're very thankful for that."
Focused in for the Bulldogs against Arcadia (13-6, 7-4) was Brooks. In the circle, the sophomore struck out 11 and came two walks away from throwing a perfect game. The win improved her record to 22-2 and she has upped her strikeout total on the season to 282.
Brooks said she realized the significance of getting the win against Arcadia.
"The league title definitely was on my mind and I'm guessing it was on the minds of all the other players as well," said Brooks, who was an All-CIF and All-Area selection last season. "I think we just wanted more to just win the game itself and then the league title would come with it. That was more of our focus."
The Bulldogs had trouble stringing together hits Friday against Arcadia starter Kenzie Grimes. Grimes gave up just one unearned run and scattered eight hits while striking out five.
Burbank was able to score the lone run of the contest after an Apaches' miscue. With one out in the second inning, Kaitlin Brooks legged out an infield hit down the third-base line. Brooks was replaced at first with pinch runner Allyson Capili, who proceeded to steal second. The next batter, Julia Duarte, hit a sharp liner to left field. Capili appeared to be stopped at third, but when the left fielder bobbled the ball, she was sent home and she crossed the plate standing up.
"When I saw the fielder bobble the ball, I sent her," said Drabecki, who was coaching at third. "In a game like this, you have to take some gambles, and luckily this one paid off."
The closest the Apaches came to a hit was in the fourth inning. Grimes powered a chopper into the hole between third and second base. But Burbank shortstop Laina Do played the offering perfectly, stepped in front of the ball and fired to first just in time to nip Grimes.
Arcadia got a runner in scoring position just once in the game after a walk and a stolen base with two outs in the third. But Caitlyn Brooks induced a strikeout to end the inning.
"This is just such an important title for us," said Burbank senior second baseman Katie Hooper, who is a four-year starter. "This is something that I've been trying to win for the past four years and to do it with the team we have now is pretty amazing."