Salado isn’t competing at state this weekend following a loss to Troy in the Region III-2A final.
But for Salado head coach Chad Krempin, saying goodbye to a senior class that has won 80-plus games since 2012 has been just as hard to accept.
If not harder.
“That’s probably the toughest thing is you know they’re not coming back,” Krempin said. “They’re not going to be walking the halls anymore. No more practices this week obviously. That’s the most difficult part about it.”
Krempin still fondly remembers when the Class of 2014 players were sophomores and finished second in a Class 3A district behind perennial-power Liberty Hill.
After defeating Cuero 10-0 in Game 1 of the area round, the Gobblers rallied to win two straight and send the young Eagles home.
But with young pieces in place, and a drop in classification looming, Krempin knew his team wasn’t going home that early again for at least the next two years.
“Even if we were to stay 3A,” Krempin said, “we had the makings of a team that could do great things. And they did a lot of great things.”
A season later, the Eagles proved Krempin right, advancing all the way to state thanks largely to junior pitcher Casey Frazier, who didn’t lose a game until Salado fell to Halletsville in the state semifinals.
This year, however, fellow senior Britton Hawes was nearly as impressive on the mound as both had an ERA under 1.00.
A return to state appeared imminent until Troy eked out a 1-0 win in a one-game regional final to end the Eagles’ state bid.
It was only the second loss for Salado this postseason. The first one, against Teague, the Eagles avenged with consecutive run-rule wins to advance to the regional quarterfinals.
They didn’t have that chance against Troy.
“There’s some bitterness anytime you feel like you didn’t play your best game or you weren’t given the opportunity to really showcase what your team was all about,” Krempin said. “Those kids feel like we were the best team in the region.”
Yet despite not having a game to prepare for this week, Krempin said his inbox has been full with players and parents reminding him that, out of all the wins the Eagles have amassed since 2012, it is the relationships that will be remembered the most.
“It’s the relationships,” Krempin said. “I can’t tell you how many texts and emails and letters I’ve gotten this week.”
But neither Krempin nor the Eagles expect this to be their last deep playoff run, even with Salado moving up to Class 4A next season.
The Eagles’ junior varsity teams have lost a combined two games the last two seasons and, this year, outscored district opponents by 200 runs.
So, while Krempin and Salado will be saying goodbye to 10 players from one of the most accomplished senior classes in school history, the Eagles also have the pieces to build on what that class has started, rather than let it fade into distant memory.
“We will keep it going,” Krempin said. “There’s no question about that.”