Burbank defeats Lanier in do-or-die game, earns fifth-straight playoff trip
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Count flexibility among Burbank coach Romeo Barrera’s traits.
Burbank’s athletic coordinator conveyed to the veteran coach that a parent had told him Barrera was being too conservative. Barrera took the constructive criticism, talked it over with his staff and a more aggressive offensive team was born.
The Bulldogs (8-16-1, 5-7), who scored 29 runs in their last three District 28-4A games, defeated Lanier (7-15, 4-8) 11-7 in a winner-take-all game last Thursday at SAISD Field No. 2. Burbank claimed fourth place with the win, while the Voks fell into a fifth-place tie with with Edison (4-17, 4-8).
A suggestion from Burbank assistant coach Joe Sanchez earlier in the year that the players needed to see more live pitching and spend less time hitting off the pitching machine may have planted the seed.
“I could see that we needed to be more aggressive,” Barrera said. “We started to bunt more to get runners over, y’know, doing a safety squeeze when it was called for. That kind of pushed some buttons in me.
“Every group of kids is different. Something that works with one group of kids may not work with another. Sometimes you have to step outside yourself, and see yourself as others see you.”
The win had an added bonus for Burbank. The Bulldogs tied Highlands (10-13, 5-7) for third place in the district, although the Owls will claim the district’s No. 3 seed because of two head-to-head wins over the Bulldogs.
Lanier finished the 2013 season by losing a fourth-place tie-breaker to Highlands. The Voks have narrowly missed the playoffs in four of the last five years.
“It was the same opportunity as last year,” Lanier coach Carlos Sanchez said. “Like I told the kids, no one else has this opportunity.
“They were ready. We had really good practices three days in a row. You’ve got to give credit where it’s due. Burbank hit the ball more than we hit and they were victorious.”
Two weeks ago, after back-to-back losses to District 28-4A champion Brennan and runner-up Brackenridge, it appeared Burbank’s streak of playoff appearance was in jeopardy. All it took was three-straight wins to for the Bulldogs to garner a hard-earned fifth playoff trip in a row.
Barrera put a countdown on the chalkboard in Burbank’s locker room to remind the Bulldogs players of the task at hand.
“We put it up there, ‘How do you want to be remembered?,’ ” Barrera said, “2001 was the last time Burbank didn’t make the playoffs on the field. Especially for the seniors, we knew they didn’t want to be the first ones (since) not to make the playoffs. Those seniors stepped up.
“It was really good to see them achieve their goals. I’m really excited for them. I’ve never seen them so happy. They gave the extra effort.”
The outcome of Thursday’s game was in doubt heading into the seventh inning. The young Voks scored three runs in the top of the sixth to give themselves on outside chance of ending their five-game losing streak and making the cut. Three of those losses were by four runs or fewer.
Lanier got off to a 4-3 start in district play, which included a 3-1 win over Burbank on March 25.
“My boys believed we could beat them, because they’d done it already,” Sanchez said. “They were reqady to go. But Burbank blossomed. They started hitting the ball at the right time.
“That’s what it amounted to in district this year, who made plays and who got hits. The first time around, we hit the ball and we made plays. This time, it was the reverse.”
Both teams scored twice in the first inning. Lanier inched ahead with a run in the top of the second. Burbank seized control with a five-run explosion in the bottom of the inning.
Burbank’s 12-hit attack included its first home run of the season, from sophomore Jonathan Martinez.
“Burbank outhit us,” Sanchez said. “You’ve got to give them credit. That’s the bottom line.”
Martinez hit the two-run blast in the fourth inning and also had an RBI single among his three hits. Jonathan Alanis also had three hits, including two doubles. Tristan Settles (2 doubles, RBI), Conrad Perez (double, 3 RBIs), Felix Perez (triple, RBI) and Jeremy Moreno (RBI) also supplied two hits. Arturo Martinez added two RBIs.
“Our top hitter, Jeremy, has been kind of sparkplug,” Barrera said, “but our Nos. 3 and 4 hitters really went off. (Settles and Martinez) played a really big part, coming through and having such a big play.”
The Voks closed within 7-4 in the top of the fourth. Jon Garza (triple), Don Pardo (double, two RBIs) and pitcher Hector DeHoyos were Lanier’s leaders.
“Those three seniors (played well),” Sanchez said. “All season long, they’ve been the ones who’ve hit the ball consistently, and at the right time.”
The Bulldogs had an answer once again. Burbank scored two runs apiece in the fourth and fifth for a seven-run cushion.
Settles was the winning pitcher.
“We hadn’t really been able to get our offense going until the last three games,” Barrera said. “I think a big part of that was a testament to the kids. They were in playoff mode. If we hadn’t won those three, we wouldn’t have been there.”
Burbank will play District 27-4A champion Hays in a best-of-three series, which begins Thursday with a 7 p.m. game at SAISD Field No. 1. The series then moves to Buda for a 7 p.m. game at Hays Friday and, if necessary, a 1 p.m. game Saturday.
“Now the season starts all over,” Barrera said. “Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
The Bulldogs played Hays in the bi-district round last season. The Rebels won in two games.
“They’ve got a pitcher who’s going to A&M that threw against us last year,” Barrera said, referring to Tyler Woodmansee. “He’s going to be tough. We’ve got to find a way to get on base and find a way to score.
“I believe in the kids. I believe they’ll give us a chance to win.”
Lanier could be gearing up for a big year in 2015.
“I told them, ‘Look at how many guys we lost from last year,’ ” Sanchez said. “We’re young. They didn’t expect us to be here. We lost our entire infield from last year and we only had one returning outfielder.
“Look at what we accomplished. We had an opportunity to get to the playoffs. That’s a positive, and I’m very proud of to be coach of this team.
“We’ve come a long way, but we’re still young. We’ve got a lot to build on. It looks promising for next year and years to come.”