SOLEDAD — When it was announced that the Soledad baseball team would face St. Francis for the third time in the Central Coast Section Division IV semifinals, many thought it was heading for a classic, especially since the Aztecs’ ace Eric Segura was eligible to pitch. However, due to an injury, Segura wasn’t able to pitch, and Soledad’s season came to an end.
Both the Soledad Aztecs (21-7) and St. Francis Sharks (21-6) got the win in their first round of the CCS Division IV playoffs. Soledad upset the No. 1 seed Santa Teresa 4-1, while St. Francis beat Sequoia 11-8.
During the regular season, the Aztecs and the Sharks played two competitive games that both teams won by two runs. These teams even scored the same amount of runs against each other at 12 apiece.
So it was only fitting that these teams would play again, but this time a berth in the CCS championship game was on the line.
The May 25 game took place in Santa Clara at Washington Park, a delicate setting for a vital game.
Before the game, when the Aztecs announced their starting lineup via Twitter, it showed Segura playing second base instead of pitching. The majority of Soledad supporters were confused, unaware that Segura was having arm problems and not able to pitch that day.
“When Eric (Segura) tells me he’s not feeling good, you don’t ever risk a kid’s health, it’s not worth it,” said Soledad Head Coach Damien Ryan. “It’s not just about Eric. It can be Jessie Farfan, Jeremie Bañuelos, it doesn’t matter. We are not going to hurt anyone.”
Next man up was sophomore Andrew Nichols, who during the regular season was 3-1 with a 3.14 ERA. In the first match between the teams, Nichols came in relief and pitched five innings in the 8-6 loss.
Unfortunately for Soledad, it wasn’t their day as they lost to St. Francis 10-0, only collecting three hits and allowing the leadoff batter to reach base in every inning.
“We couldn’t constantly throw any pitch for a strike,” Ryan said. “And when you’re not establishing a strike, the umps are less likely to give you pitches on the corner. We got our first three hits in the first two innings, so we couldn’t hit the ball either.”
Although the season didn’t end the way they thought, the Soledad baseball program continues.
The Aztec program, which was already well respected by Pacific Coast Athletic League teams for the teams they put out year after year, is starting to get recognized by other leagues in the CCS.
“Goal number one is winning league, and when you don’t get that you look to league part two CCS,” Ryan said. “It’s always been my goal to be a perennial CCS team. We were put in a higher division. Why we were there isn’t important to me, we got some respect. Last year we were division five. Now we’re up to four. People think we’re good enough to be with the better teams.”
For Soledad fans, next year is promising as they are expected to have every starter back except for one, and their entire pitching staff is also returning. Plus, who knows what new faces might be coming up the pipeline.