BURBANK — In command with a huge lead entering the seventh inning, things appeared in order for the Burbank High softball team to extend its season.
The Bulldogs were in control with ace pitcher Caitlyn Brooks in the circle and three outs from victory. They then encountered trouble before seeing their season come to a close in heartbreaking fashion.
Second-seeded Burbank yielded five runs in the seventh and two in the eighth en route to an 8-7 home loss to Sunny Hills on Tuesday in a CIF Southern Section Division III second-round contest at McCambridge Park.
Burbank, which captured the Pacific League championship, finished 25-3. Sunny Hills, which won the Freeway League crown, improved to 19-8.
"That was quite a game and a tough one to lose," Burbank Coach Nicole Drabecki said. "You can't play defense against timely hitting, and that exactly what [Sunny Hills] did.
"With a 6-1 lead, you should close the door. We left the door open."
The Lancers strode to the plate confident against Brooks, who appeared to tire as the game went along, in the seventh.
Brooks allowed three straight singles to begin the frame before Shay Knighten registered a bases-clearing double to reduce the deficit to 6-4. A run-scoring single by Amber Elliott made it 6-5 before Viviana Ruiz knotted it at 6 with an RBI double. The Lancers had six hits in the seventh after recording five in the first six innings.
In the eighth, Brooks (25-3) got into immediate trouble. She gave up a lead-off single to Vanessa Batt before MJ Knighten followed with a triple to give the Lancers a 7-6 lead. Shay Knighten then had a run-scoring single to give Sunny Hills an 8-6 advantage.
Burbank tallied a run in the eighth to close out the scoring. With one out, Sunny Hills starting pitcher Riley Nahrwold walked Bridgette Pisa. Brooks was then intentionally walked before Katie Hooper delivered a run-scoring single to left to drive in Pisa. On the play, Brooks was thrown out at third by the left fielder on a bang-bang play. Lily Winn then flied to left to end the contest.
Brooks, a sophomore, credited Sunny Hills' ability to make adjustments at the plate late in the game.
"They placed the hits where they needed to," said Brooks, who allowed 15 hits and struck out seven in going the distance. "They have some good hitters.
"I think the mental aspect of being up 6-1 got to us. It's definitely a learning experience."
Sunny Hills Coach Art Jarman said the Lancers needed to remain patient against Brooks.
"We have some good hitters, and we converted at the end," Jarman said. "[Brooks'} velocity was a little down [late in the game]."
Burbank, which saw its seven-game winning streak end, took a 3-0 lead in the second. Laina Do gave the Bulldogs — who began the playoffs with a 7-2 home win against El Rancho on Thursday — a 1-0 lead with a run-scoring single to plate Jazmin Orozco. Pisa then had a two-run single to make it 3-0.
Sunny Hills, which began the playoffs with an 11-2 home win against Carter, trimmed the deficit to 3-1 in the third on a run-scoring single by Knighten.
Burbank answered with a run in the third when Hooper raced home from third on a wild pitch by Nahrwold. A monstrous home run over the left-field fence by Brooks gave the Bulldogs a 5-1 advantage in the fourth.
A fielder's choice extended Burbank's lead to 6-1 in the sixth.
However, Burbank couldn't close the game out.
"[Sunny Hills] had that momentum swing going into the late innings," Drabecki said. "It just wasn't meant to be for us.
"Caitlyn has been our go-to player all year. She's human. [The base-running play by Brooks in the eighth] was an aggressive route and I felt she got under the tag. That's just the way it was called. It was a bang-bang play."
Drabecki, who guided the Bulldogs to their first league championship since 1987, said the program will begin retooling.
"We feel like we have a lot of things in place in going forward with the program," said Drabecki, who got three hits from Orozco and two apiece from Hooper and Julia Duarte.