ROUND ROCK — Casey Frazier stood in line with his arms crossed and his lips puckered.
A clunky medal dangled around the junior ace’s neck. But, along the first-base line where the Salado Eagles stood there were no smiles, no laughs and no cheers. The season had been sweet, but the final taste of defeat was too bitter.
The Eagles had fallen short of their goal, their expectations and their dreams. The season was over one day too soon.
The medals were bronze.
Salado baseball coach Chad Krempin was surprised as he looked around as the crowd emptied out of the Round Rocks’ Dell Diamond. Frazer was near speechless and senior Jon Franz kept flashing back to the fall when he was a member of the silver medal cross country team.
The feeling was similar, but this time the pain was worse.
Ever since he was a fan cheering sitting along the third-base line, watching Salado win the 2008 2A state championship this had been his dream.
And now, it was over.
Worse than that, it was “kind of embarrassing.”
In 41 games prior, the Eagles had never played this poorly. It was Salado’s worst performance of the season and it came at the worst possible time – in a 16-3 loss to Hallettsville in the 2A UIL State Baseball Tournament.
Franz, though, plans to be back at the Dell Diamond next season. For the second time in his life, the senior expects to be back along the third-base line, watching the Eagles play again for the state title. This season is over. His dreams are over, but for the Eagles this is just the start.
Salado graduates six seniors, but Frazier and Britton Hawes will be back to once again form one of the best 1-2 punches in 2A baseball. Catcher Cole Haag will give them experience behind the plate.
Davis Little and Caden Eary will give them experience in the field.
And the experience from Wednesday will fuel the team to make it back – even if it was all too surreal.
It was one of those days, when Murphy’s Law took over – everything that could have gone wrong, did in disastrous fashion.
Frazier, who had won 23 straight decisions, was a shell Wednesday. The frozen ropes hit by the Brahmas kept slicing their way into right field, one after another, finding holes that on other days would never have been there.
Frazier only lasted 1 1/3 innings, and allowed six earned runs on seven hits. Not that Salado’s other pitches fared much better against the Brahmas bats. Junior Hawes lasted 1 2/3 innings and gave up three runs, senior flamethrower Reagan Bazar gave up six runs in only 2/3 of an inning.
The crowd clad in red chanted “Let’s Go EAGLES,” from the stands as Salado tried to make a comeback like it had all season long.
Salado had done it before. The fans believed they would do it again.
Down 7-0, the Eagles notched one run on the board and Trey Mohler blooped a single into center field.
The Salado fans buzzed their horns and waved their towels, while Hallettsville met at the mound to calm pitcher Chris Jones.
A charge erupted again as the Eagles put two more on the board in the fourth. Salado now trailed only 8-3 and there was still hope.
But, it only lasted a moment. Mohler swung and missed and the comeback that never came was put on hold for another inning.
That too, never came, though. As the Brahmas kept charging, Salado kept flinching, making five errors in the fourth inning as Hallettsville went up 16-3.
It was a mess no one could believe.
Hallettsville’s fourth inning consisted of eight runs on only three hits, one bases-loaded walk, five errors, and two Eagle pitching changes.
As Salado’s season drew to a close, the fans fervor feigned away with each extra out.
The resilient Eagles had no answer. Frazier was on the bench. And when he took that seat less than two innings into the game, it knocked the breath out of the Eagles.
Frazier had never been hit before. He hadn’t even given up an earned run in the playoffs.
Coming into the game, he had a 0.42 ERA.
The thought that this could happen, in this fashion never occurred to them.
Heck, it never occurred to anyone.
But, when it was over there was little doubt the Brahmas were the better team on the hot and humid June night at the Dell Diamond.
There was no ceremony when Hallettsville lined up along the third base line. No medals were handed out. The Brahmas play again today with a shot at the state title.
Their dreams are still alive.
Salado, meanwhile, has to wait for next year.
That is when the Salado faithful believe that Franz will be cheering along the third-base line again. And Frazier and Hawes will have a different color medal around their necks and smiles across their faces.