There were tears in the eyes of many members of the Los Lunas High School baseball team after their 8-1 loss to Carlsbad in the Class 5A state championship game on Saturday in Farmington. But the tears weren’t because the Tigers lost. It had a lot to do with the team’s five seniors, who led Los Lunas to the title game, and the fact that they had played their last game.
“They’ve all been around the program as long as I have,” said Steve Contreras, who finished his third year at the helm and spent two years as an assistant before that. “We’re going to miss them a lot next year.”
James Alarcon, Carlos Castillo, Travis Ferrel, J.D. Garcia and Josh Hernandez will no longer play baseball for the Los Lunas Tigers, but they left their mark on the Los Lunas baseball program. Through hard work and dedication, they helped elevate Los Lunas to New Mexico state high school baseball’s upper tier of excellence.
“Each year, we took it a step further,” said Contreras, who admitted to being a bit emotional about his Fabulous Five. “We had a winning season, after two losing seasons in a row. Then, last year, we made it to the post-season and now, this year, made it to the championship game. I can’t say anything but good things about the five seniors we had. The boys came a long way. I’m very proud of them.”
The Tigers finished the season with a 19-6 record. They won 16 of their last 17 games leading up to the championship game, including 11 in a row.
“We didn’t play to our potential, but I’m glad we made it this far,” Hernandez said after the team’s loss to perennial state power Carlsbad in the state final. “We put Los Lunas back on the map.”
Several minutes after the final out had been recorded, the five seniors gathered together for a sort of a group hug.
“We just kind of talked about everything we’ve gone through to get here and how this was our last game,” explained Castillo. “It’s a great group of guys. To play with these guys has been a pleasure.”
“We’ve played with each other for a long time,” said Hernandez. “We knew we’d get here (to the state championship game) some day, and that was it.”
“It’s sad. I didn’t think I’d be this sad,” said Alarcon as the reality of the situation began to set in. “It was our last game — our last high school game.
“But all the hard work we put in for this, it’s worth it. I’d do it again.”
The moment wasn’t lost on the underclassmen either. Junior Nathan Romero’s eyes were moist with tears. “Mostly because we’re losing our main people – our seniors,” he said. “Our seniors are all disappearing. We’ll miss them.”
Gone but not forgotten. Contreras said this year’s senior class set an example with their leadership and work ethic — an example he hopes future Tiger teams will follow. “Hopefully, the younger guys will be able to feed off what the seniors did, and we’ll be back (in the state championship game) again soon.”