GLENDALE — Deep in the pages of the sports guidebook is the belief that there are good losses, that a defeat in the right context can be a positive for a team's longterm goals.
See, for example, the Burbank Nationals major baseball team.
After losing the first game of the District 16 Tri-Cities Tournament of Champions, something clicked.
“Our team at the beginning of the season, we were all quiet,” said Burbank starting pitcher Carter Kessinger. “After we lost, something went through our minds and we started getting more excited. It was kind of a whole psychological thing.”
It was a winning thing, as well. Burbank defeated Crescenta Valley Gangi, 6-1, on Thursday at Babe Herman Field to capture the tournament title in the if-nessasary championship.
The Nationals finished the year 25-1, their only loss the tournament opener. They rattled off six straight victories en route to taking home the championship.
“We went 19-0 during the regular season, and it wasn't by accident,” said Burbank Coach Thomas Magoon. “Sometimes a loss gets you hungry. You come back and fight through it.”
Key to the victory was Kessinger's performance. He struck out 11 in 5 1/3 innings.
“I felt like I had my best stuff,” Kessinger said. “I felt like my breaking balls were doing what I wanted them to do and I felt like I executed when my team needed me.”
Kessinger actually ran into some trouble early, hitting the first batter he saw and then walking two of the next three who came to the plate. A passed ball led to a Crescenta Valley run in the bottom of the first and the score was tied 1-1.
After that, Kessinger tossed a gem.
“He settled down and got into a groove,” Magoon said. “He pitched an awesome game.”
Burbank scored a run in the first, added two in the third and another in the fourth for a 4-1 lead. In the sixth, the Nationals put the game out of reach. Jesse Rodriguez and Chance Van Hook led off the frame with back-to-back singles and both scored off a Blaine Traxel hit and a Gangi error to make the contest 6-1.
“You know if you make a mistake, it's not something that could potentially kill the game for you because you have your offense,” Kessinger said of the run support.
Traxel finished with two hits, two RBIs and a run scored.
On Wednesday, Burbank defeated Crescenta Valley, 2-1, to force Thursday's decisive showdown.
“We did a bad job of controlling the ball and we should have hit better,” said Gangi Coach Tom Harbolt, referencing his team's three errors.
Harbolt pointed out that his group of players went 19-6-1 this year after going 1-24 last season.
“The key to this year's change was a good draft and the coaching I think did a really nice job this year,” he said.
But it was Burbank hoisting the trophy at the end.
“This year it finally just came through and it just clicked,” Magoon said. “It was their year.”