Caitlyn Brooks comes full circle for Burbank High softball

In Burbank High softball lore, all pitchers are compared to former Bulldogs pitching sensation Debby Day.

Day, a 1987 Burbank graduate and three-time All-CIF Southern Section hurler, was a dominant force as a high school pitcher, notching two perfect games in a row — and three in her career — as a senior. She went on to earn All-America honors at the University of Arizona, helping the Wildcats win the 1991 NCAA Championship. Burbank and Arizona both inducted Day into their hall of fames.

With those impressive credentials, not many Bulldogs have been compared to Day in the more than 25 years since she dominated in the circle at Burbank.

But since her immergence as a freshman two seasons ago, sophomore Caitlyn Brooks has been drawing her share of comparisons with Day.

“Everybody in this area knows about Debby Day and what an amazing pitcher she was at Burbank High,” Bulldogs Coach Nicole Drabecki said. “But with her potential and with two years left on the high school level, I really believe that Caitlyn will be right up there with Debby. And that’s a very big accomplishment. She is only 16 and she has two more years to become something like Debby Day or more.”

During her sophomore season, Brooks was nothing short of dominating in the circle. The right-hander put up impressive numbers and led Burbank to a league championship for the first time since 1987, when Day accomplished the same feat. She was also voted the Pacific League Player of the Year and earned All-CIF first-team accolades.

“It’s nice,” Brooks said of any comparison to Day. “But I just try and go out there and focus on what I have to do, one batter at a time, when I’m pitching. I don’t even think about the batters and what they are trying to do. I just try and do what I do best and try not to worry about other things.”

Brooks definitely had her share of opposing batters worrying this past season. And along with her pitching prowess, Brooks was also a talented hitter, leading her team at the plate.

“She is a great hitter and a great pitcher combined and you don’t find that a lot with a young player like Caitlyn,” said teammate Katie Hooper, who graduated and will be playing at Cal State Northridge. “Along with her pitching, she is a definite threat at the plate. I have really never had a teammate that is as good as she is in both aspects of the game.”

It is because of these accomplishments that Brooks has been voted the 2013 All-Area Player of the Year by the Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press, La Cañada Valley Sun and Pasadena Sun.

Brooks enjoyed a solid freshman season in 2012, notching a 16-5 record and a 1.95 earned-run average with 180 strikeouts in 147 innings. But she was determined to step up her game for her sophomore campaign.

“Going from my travel ball team in the fall, I really took what they told me, along with my coaches at Burbank, and applied it to this past season,” said Brooks, who plays for the 18-and-under SoCal Choppers. I was mainly working to get the batters to ground out more than have them hit balls in the air. So, I really worked to keep the ball low, hit my spots and let my defense do their work.”

That formula worked wonders for Brooks, more so during Pacific League competition, where she had a 14-0 record. On the season, she was 25-3 with a 0.78 earned-run average and opponents batted just .174 against her. In addition, Brooks had 309 strikeouts and just 25 walks. She also tallied double-digit strikeouts in 24 games.

“She is by far the best pitcher who I ever coached,” said Drabecki, who has been at Burbank for six years. “But she was just dominating in all facets of the game. She was a force as a pitcher and she was truly dominating. It’s just amazing to coach her and I’m so grateful to be part of this opportunity to coach her. Pitchers like her don’t come around very often.”

In addition to her success in the circle, Brooks was Burbank's leading hitter. Along with a .526 batting average, she had 40 hits, 35 runs batted in, seven doubles, 12 home runs and 42 runs scored. Along with a 1.118 slugging percentage, Brooks had a .617 on-base average.

“Caitlyn gets a lot of attention because she's such a great pitcher,” said Drabecki, who was voted the league's coach of the year. “But she is also a great hitter and you can't look past her in the lineup.

“But her pitching is what just amazes me. The command she has and the things she can do being just a sophomore is pretty incredible.”

Behind Brooks, the Bulldogs were easily able to slice through the Pacific League. Unfortunately for Burbank, despite being seeded No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs, it lost in the second round to Sunny Hills, 8-7, in eight innings.

“That was disappointing for sure,” said Brooks, who was uncharacteristically hittable in the loss. “It was pretty bad.”

After a successful high school season, Brooks, who has given a verbal commitment to the University of Notre Dame, will spend her summer honing her game with her travel ball team. She wants to keep working hard and hopefully turn in another stellar season during her junior campaign next spring.

“I just want to try to keep improving,” she said. “I want to work as hard as I can to get better in any way that I can.”

That can mean only more worries for opposing batters who will try and figure out Brooks next season.

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