By Rick Assad
It’s almost spring and that means baseball is here and the Burbank High and Burroughs teams have a bright future ahead of them.
The Bulldogs are coming off a very productive season, as have the Bears. Both teams qualified for the CIF Southern Section Division V qualifiers and each played two matches.
“It’s great to be back! We are in a position to pull through and look forward to a challenging season to stay healthy,” longtime Bulldogs coach Bob Hart said. “A complete list will go a long way toward achieving our goals.”
Hart believes his 17-man club has what it takes to challenge the Pacific League banner and make a splash in the playoffs.
“We are always striving to improve all aspects of our team, and above all, we are grateful for the time we have spent together as a program,” he said.
Burbank finished with a 13-6 record and posted a 10-4 league mark. The Bulldogs beat Sierra Vista 11-3 in the first round of the playoffs, but lost a 4-2 decision to Hemet in the second round.
The Bulldogs will have eight seniors on their roster and will include captain Daniel Neria, captain Jared Cantu, captain Wyatt LaMarsna, Jose Avellaneda, Ben Baptiste, Matthew Benson, Josh DiPietro and David McBride.
These eight will see significant time on the diamond and are the engine that will drive this team forward.
Neria will throw and is able to play anywhere on the court. No star has shone brighter than Neria and he expects to have a terrific final season in a Bulldogs uniform.
“The team looks really good this year. We have a lot of potential and we could be one of the best teams Burbank has ever had. I have full confidence in that,” said Neria, who will attend and play baseball at Cal State University San Marcos. “I’m really excited for the season.”
Cantu is the catcher and will have a large and consistent hand on the performance of the pitching staff.
LaMarsna is capable of playing three positions on the field which include second base, shortstop, and third base.
Avellaneda will be on the mound and will also see time in the outfield and at first base.
Baptiste will work hard in the outfield and has enough raw speed to cover any outfield position.
Benson is a second baseman and will be a key cog in the infield for the Bulldogs.
Tall and lean with plenty of power, DiPietro will also see time on the hill and when he’s not, he’ll play first base and center field.
McBride is also on the pitching team and when he’s not, he’ll play in the outfield.
There are nine juniors on the team, including Sattwik Banerjee, who also plays on the men’s basketball team.
Banerjee is yet another arm Hart can use. He will also see time at third base and shortstop.
When it comes to being tough, few will surpass Dylan Robinson, who played quarterback in college despite being undersized. Robinson will play shortstop.
Danny Betancourt will play second base, shortstop and see action as a pitcher.
Jimmy Cafferty will pitch, play first base and see time in the outfield.
Ben Castillo is versatile and can play the outfield and the infield and is primarily a third baseman.
Adan DePaz is another player who can do almost anything on the diamond. DePaz will see action at second base, shortstop and outfield.
Daniel Edwards can play corner positions in the infield and will be effective as a third baseman or first baseman.
Julian Gonzalez has speed and will see time in the outfield, but his best position is center field.
Joe Maslyk is a first baseman and is capable of playing third base and left field.
Seventeen players are on the Bears roster, who have gone 12-12 in all games and 8-6 in league play, and they include 11 top class men.
Coach Matt Magallon, who helped guide the Bears to a 5-1 win over Arroyo and a 5-2 loss to Malibu in the first round, likes what’s on display.
“With the majority of starters returning and after last year with all the distractions on and off the pitch, the team has grown and is a tight unit,” he said. “We have exceptional leaders and it’s a great atmosphere and culture. We are excited for what this year brings.
One missing piece is senior Aidan Cremarosa, a pitcher/shortstop who transferred to IMG Academy in Florida and committed to Fresno State.
Still, the Bears will be strong and will have first baseman Andrew Chapman, pitcher Brayden Sibley-Ackerman, wide receiver Mason Medina, third baseman Bailey Ewan, pitcher Gunnar Nichols, pitcher Devan McGivern, pitcher Vasista Dhyasani, infielder/infielder Christian Romero, first baseman/pitcher Lim Cabellos, catcher Ryan Meza and outfielder Jack Benton.
“Captain and Batman to Nate [his brother]. He’s a leader on and off the court and he’s an extremely tough competitor,” Magallon said of Andrew Chapman. “We are delighted to see him back at first base this year. I look forward to him having a great season.
Magallon is also impressed with Sibley-Ackerman.
“Brayden is a division I am taking who will be attending Norfolk University next year,” he said. “He’s a great southpaw who will help us compete throughout the year and in the playoffs.”
Medina is a key piece of the puzzle as he is behind home plate and will take care of pitchers.
“Mason is a three-time varsity captain who embodies the culture and leadership of our program,” Magallon said. “As part of the all-round team last year, we’ll go as far as Mason takes us. He is the captain of the ship and we are so lucky to have him on our side again this season.
Ewan transferred from a private school in the Foothill area and Magallon is happy to have him. “Bailey is a transfer from St. Francis and has come into a close-knit team and has fit right in as a much-needed piece of our team’s puzzle,” he said. “We are delighted to have him.”
Magallon is extremely high on Nichols. “This fall, Gunnar has been at the top of our rotation,” he said. “He’s confident and always seems to be in control of his emotions. He’s a guy we’re going to rely on in our run for a league championship.
Magallon also likes what McGivern brings to the table. “Devan has been a three-year college player who is ready to play any role,” he said. “He is a competitor who has committed to Morningside University next year. We are delighted to have Devan back on the team again this year and know he will play many roles for us this year. , either as a closer/starter or a reliever. He’s so talented.
Magallon spoke about junior Jarell Bijasa. “Jarell is going to run through center field this season and will most likely hit at the top of the lineup,” he said. “He’s an outstanding leader in the outfield.”
Five players are juniors, and they are pitcher/outfielder/infielder Nick Forrest, Bijasa, infielder Steven Suarez, outfielder/pitcher Sebastian Zamora, and pitcher/infielder Zach Freck.
“Nick was a star player in the Pacific League and is back this year looking to help guide the team in all aspects,” Magallon said. “He’s someone the players trust on the mound and they feel that when he’s up there we have a good chance of competing for a win.”
There’s a sophomore and that’s infielder Nate Chapman, and he could be special according to Magallon.
“Nate is Robin in the dynamic Chapman Brothers duo, but he’s a workaholic who goes all out every minute on the court,” he said. “He’s a team leader stirring the drink for Burroughs’ offense.”