With seven all-league players departed from a year ago, San
Benito went into this season with a lot of questions.
San Jose – With seven all-league players departed from a year ago, San Benito went into this season with a lot of questions.
While the season ended in disappointment with a 6-2 loss to Valley Christian in the Central Coast Section Division I title game Saturday, it was hard for the Haybalers to have many ill feelings about a year that saw them reach the finals for the first time in history.
“This says a lot about this program,” coach Michael Luna said. “Coming in we had a lot of questions both behind the plate and on the bump. Every one of our pitchers contributed something during the course of the season and I can’t say enough about (sophomore catcher) Kyle (Zozaya). He’s probably the MVP of the team.
“Losing 10 seniors and seven all-leaguers, it was a tough task to win league. To get this far says a lot about the character of these guys.”
The ‘Balers playoff run – which was preceded by their second straight Tri-County Athletic League title – featured one of the more dramatic and unlikeliest of wins when San Benito (29-9) tied Bellarmine Prep with two outs in the seventh and won that quarterfinal game in extra innings.
“When we scored the two runs to tie it, I thought we would be here in the finals,” Luna said. “I knew something was on our side.”
The title game started out as if the fortune might still be with the ‘Balers.
Zach Canez reached on a one-out single in the second and Zozaya followed with another single. A wild pitch moved the runners up and Canez scored when Bryan Scott grounded out.
An inning later, San Benito was at it again. Justin Andrade reached on a two-base error and with two outs, Brian Haggett was intentionally walked for the third straight game. Kevin Medeiros then delivered an RBI single to give the ‘Balers a two-run advantage.
The lead wouldn’t last long however. The Warriors (32-4) scored twice in the bottom of the third to tie it. Daniel Hall singled home a run in the fourth to give Valley Christian the lead and knock San Benito starter Michael Garcia out of the game.
Canez, who pitched a shutout in Wednesday’s semifinal victory, took over on the mound and allowed two inherited runners to score when Jonathan Hughes hooked a double into the right field line for a 5-2 Valley Christian lead.
The ‘Balers best chance at a comeback came in the sixth when Medeiros and Canez led off with back-to-back singles. A groundout moved both runners up, but when Scott flied out to center, the runner at third got a late break in his attempt to tag up and was retired in a rundown.
The Warriors added an insurance run in the sixth and San Benito got one runner aboard in the seventh, but couldn’t make the comeback.
While the team was never the favorite in league play and surprised some by reaching the finals, the players believed all along they were capable of this.
“This is where we’re supposed to be,” said Andrade, a senior third baseman. “We know we can beat these guys (Valley Christian.) They just played a little better than us today. It’s hard to swallow.”
“I had 100 percent faith that we should’ve been here,” Medeiros said.
For the five seniors, Andrade, Garcia, Klauer, Medeiros and Kevin Gonzales, there’s a good feeling that they’re leaving the program on an upswing.
“They’re going to have a good team next year,” Andrade said. “They’re just going to get better and better.”
Luna is excited about next season and believes it could be even better than this squad, which broke the school record for wins with 29 – five better than previous record set just a year ago.
“I believe we’re going to be better next year,” Luna said. “With the pitching we have coming in and them having one more year of varsity experience, we should be better.”
So while the loss wasn’t easy, Luna sees plenty reason for the team to feel great about this year.
“I’m hurting right now, but (the players) have a lot of things to be proud of,” he said. “It is disappointing, but I think the guys understand just how special this year was.”
San Benito 011 000 0 – 2 5 1
Valley Christian 002 301 x – 6 15 1
Garcia, Canez (4) and Zozaya. Miller, Hughes (6) and Howard. WP – Miller, LP – Garcia.
RBI – Hughes (VC) 2, Miller (VC) 2, Hall (VC), Garcia (VC), Medeiros (SB), Scott (SB). 2B – Miller 2, Hughes.