WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The Williams High School Vikings baseball team's last game of the season was a tough loss to Valley Union in the first round of the state playoffs May 9.
The Vikings beat Mayer and Ash Fork to wrap up the regular season April 28-29.
The Vikes finished the season 19-8 overall and 15-3 in PowerPoint games. With a 10-0 record in their section, the Vikings won the Division IV Section IV championship.
They were seeded fifth heading into the state playoffs where they faced Valley Union and lost 10-1.
Head coach Phillip Echeverria said the loss was hard and he regrets breaking one of the most important rules in tournament play.
"You gotta win the first one before you play the second one," he said. "It is probably one of the most disappointing losses in my career."
Echeverria said that the decision to save Kohl Nixon, the Vikes' number one pitcher for the second game and to have Joaquin Salaz pitch first was an example of that. Echeverria hoped that the Vikings could beat Valley Union with Salaz on the mound.
"We didn't throw Kohl Nixon. Kohl's our number one pitcher. We should have went with our best and worried about the second game when we got to the second game," Echeverria said. "I was just disappointed that I didn't make the choice to throw our best at them. That we knew they had beat our best. But nothing against Joaquin. Joaquin, he threw well the entire year."
Pitching was not the only reason for the loss. The Vikings struggled at the plate. Valley Union's pitcher kept the Vikes off balance the entire game. The Vikings left the bases loaded in two innings.
"They just chipped away at us," Echeverria said. "The only run we could produce was one in the third inning. We were never in the ballgame hitting wise. We only had three total hits for the game."
Defensively, the Vikings played well but Valley Union hit the ball well all day.
"They just had timely hitting where they had guys on base and they got a hit," Echeverria said. "Whereas we just didn't have that timely hitting. We hit the ball hard right at them. But it is baseball and things didn't go our way, things went their way and we ended up on the losing side of things."
Nixon was named Player of the Year for the Vikings' section. Joaquin Salaz was named first team All Section. Cody Baxter, Damon Alvarado and Leo Lopez were named second team All Section.
"We had all that going for us," Echeverria said. "It was just one of those games for us. Things definitely didn't go our way."
He said despite the loss the Vikings had an outstanding year.
"I thought this was a great team that had a disappointing ending to it," Echeverria said. "I was disappointed in myself and the choices I made and the kids have to be a little bit disappointed in the way we played that final game. To only score one run is not typical of what we did all year."
He said smaller schools like Williams High School sometimes have a tough time competing in the state playoffs against bigger schools that play baseball year round.
"In my eight years here, we have gotten to the playoffs ever year and we have gotten to the round of eight," Echeverria said. "But we've just been unable to get past that round in most of the sports. We usually qualify for the playoffs but we can't get out of that first and second round. I guess it is going to take a little bit more hard work and execution of what we're doing."
The players on Echeverria's team play different sports during the year. He hopes that an informal summer program will help the players keep up their skills to be ready for baseball next year.
The Vikings will lose eight seniors this year, six of which saw a lot of playing time.
"There will be a lot of holes to fill next year," Echeverria said.
Nine freshmen currently in the program will have the opportunity to fill those holes as sophomores and Echeverria hopes the incoming freshman class will have some more student athletes.
The Spring Banquet took place May 13 after the Williams-Grand Canyon News went to print.