By Alex Byington
By the Book
"From this day to the ending of the world/But we in it shall be remembered/We few, we happy few, we band of brothers." - William Shakespeare, "Henry V"
The hugs were aplenty. The disappointment was palpable.
But the sadness that usually accompanies the end of an era was nowhere to be found. There was no despair, no woe-is-me melancholy - not for this brotherhood of Eagles. That's because, for most of the Salado contingent in attendance, there was nothing to cry about - it was a fitting ending.
Senior leadoff hitter and team catalyst Cole Calder described it best as a feeling of "bittersweetness."
"We're so happy to get to this round, but we wanted so much more," Calder said of making it to the Region IV-3A semifinals.
For Calder and the other 10 seniors - all of whom had already graduated the Thursday prior - Saturday's two-game sweep courtesy of hot-hitting Columbia was more about the culmination of their careers than any single out or pitch. This year's senior class finished with just under 100 victories dating back to their freshman year, when three of the recent graduates were apart of the 2008 squad that won the 2A state championship.
"That's substantial, that's big and I'll take that with me wherever I go," Calder said.
But what mattered most, they went out in true Salado Eagle fashion - with a fight.
Despite an embarrassing 16-5, five-inning debacle in a sweltering Game 2 - when temperatures were flirting with triple digits - the Eagles managed to gather themselves for what turned out to be their last stand in Game 3.
Jumping on the Roughnecks from the start, Salado plated four runs before ever recording an out in the opening inning courtesy of a two-run home run by Hunter Ward and a two-RBI single by Colby Schiller, both seniors.
But against the smoking-hot bats of Columbia, the 4-1 lead wasn't safe for long as senior pitcher Clint Scarborough was blasted for six runs in the top of the second - including back-to-back home runs by spark-plug juniors Treylon Johnican (grand slam) and Patrick Cato (solo).
Fueled by the everlasting desire to simply continue playing along side one another, the Eagles battled back to pull it to 10-8 entering their final at-bat. But after five final-inning victories already that postseason, it seemed fate could spare no more heroics as Scarborough - the potential winning run - popped up to third to end the threat, and the prep careers of his fellow seniors.
"When you have a large group (of seniors) like this and almost everyone has been in the program for four years, ... you lose a part of yourself," longtime head coach Melvin Bates said. "You've spent so much time with those kids, it's like part of your family."
And it's there, in that feeling of togetherness, why there was no sadness. They know there is no end when it comes to families.