Jose Valle knows how difficult it can be to win a league championship.
As the head baseball coach at Burroughs High for 10 years, Valle's team won one Foothill League title in 1997. Amazingly, it was the program's first championship in 40 years.
The baseball team hasn't won one since.
Sara Larquier and Ryanne Hodgins were standout all-league and All-CIF Southern Section softball players at Burroughs. However, despite their success, they never played for an Indians' league-championship team.
Both went on to play Division I college softball, and Larquier also played professionally.
As head coach of the Burroughs softball team the last two years, Valle has surrounded himself with Larquier and Hodgins, who serve as assistants.
The triad of coaching experience had led the Indians in the right direction this season. Burroughs is undefeated and in first place in the Pacific League with four games remaining.
Burroughs is trying to capture its first crown in 28 years, as it won a Foothill League championship in 1982 under Coach Jerry Lipman.
"We definitely try to convey to the players how important it is what they are so close to doing, something that hasn't been done in almost 30 years," said Larquier, who was an All-American at the University of Virginia. "We constantly remind them to play like it's their last game, play like there's no tomorrow and not take for granted the success they've had so far."
Although Valle is the team's head coach, he has relied a great deal on his assistants since taking over the program last season. Because of their astute knowledge of the sport, Valle says he has no problem letting Larquier and Hodgins take over duties.
"Coming from baseball, I had never coached softball before," Valle said. "So, because they both know so much about softball, they have helped me with some of the differences there is between the two sports.
"They have been a big asset to this program, and I think we have been able to be successful because of their help. I'm by no means a dictator on this team, and I delegate a lot to them. They both have free reign to talk to a player, or make decisions, or whatever."
A starter at the University of New Mexico, Hodgins said she appreciates the confidence Valle has in her and Larquier.
"In my experience, the greatest coaches are the ones who are willing to kind of let other coaches have certain aspects of the game under their control," Hodgins said. "Here, it's always a team decision, but sometimes he will come to us and say 'What do you thing of this?' or 'What should we do in this situation.' He really lets us be involved."
With a 10-0 mercy- rule win against Pasadena on Monday, the Indians improved to 13-8 and 10-0 in league. Burroughs has a one-game lead over cross-town rival Burbank (9-1 in league) and two ahead of Crescenta Valley (8-2).
The Indians have a big showdown with the Falcons — the defending league champions — at 3:30 p.m. today at Olive Park.
Burroughs ends the regular season May 13 in a league contest against Burbank at McCambridge Park.
The team has been able to thrive because of a solid core of talented players. Pitcher Heather Haynes (8-3) and a squad of fine fielders and hitters like Taylor Buliavac, Jena Serranzana, Shannon Trujillo, Emily Odio, Vanessa Simile and Allie Grimaldo has kept Burroughs winning.
Valle said he talks to his team about winning a league title, and cautions them about taking any team too lightly.
"The goal is to win a league title, so we do talk about it," Valle said. "We tell them at this point in the season we can't afford to get tripped up, and we have to stay focused. We have to bring our best and we have to be ready to play every time."
The team is trying to add to the success it had in 2009 when it finished second in league behind the Falcons, which the Indians lost to twice.
With a trio of talented coaches making sure the Indians don't lose sight of the task at hand, Burroughs should be ready for a tough stretch run. And that focus could lead the Burroughs players right to their goal of a league crown.