The second-seeded Pusch Ridge Lions finally lost a game, 10-0, to the sixth-seeded Bourcade Catholic Golden Eagles, one step from a repeat trip to the 2A state title game last Friday.
The Golden Eagles went on to capture the 2A-title by beating number four rated Camp Verde, 6-5 on Saturday.
The Lions finished the season with an amazing record of 22-1, after winning their first 22 games.
"Everything that could've gone wrong went wrong," said first-year coach Mark Frithsen.
This was actually the opposite of how the season as a whole went for Pusch Ridge, a year when it seemed like everything the Lions tried seemed to work to perfection.
A year after winning a state championship, bringing in a new coach, losing their best hitter and other unfamiliar situations produced a scenario of uncertainty. There were so many changes that the only players starting in the same position that they started at last year were second baseman Owen Bertlesen and right-fielder Andrew Haines.
"I thought the team did a great job with all the players we lost," Frithsen said. "The unbeaten season surprised a lot of people. I was very proud of them. They stayed humble."
On a team that scored a lot of runs consistently during the season, including 20 a few times, it was strange to see the Lions get held to only two hits by the Golden Eagles. Bertlesen hit a triple but got stranded.
"Their pitcher did a great job of keeping us off balance," Frithsen said. "He had a great fastball, letter high. We just couldn't lay off."
As defending champions, did Pusch Ridge take their opponents lightly?
"We were poised and didn't overlook them," Frithsen said. "That's the way baseball goes sometimes. They had a great hitting day."
Frithsen said that pitcher Aaron Vaughn was hitting his spots.
After winning 15-5 over Winkelman-Hayden the previous Saturday, the five-day layoff may have hurt the team's momentum, but Frithsen didn't make any excuses.
"If we played Bourcade 10 times, it would probably be 5-5."
The Lions will now focus on next year. The core of the lineup came from the speed and offensive ability of the lineup's first four hitters — Matt Horrigan, Alec Erceg, Vaughn and Bertlesen. All four are seniors.
"Donny Perdue (freshman) was 3-0 this year," Frithsen said. "He did a good job in relief. We have Colin Chafin too. I think we'll have five to six freshmen next year; we're going to be young next year."