PHOENIX - The Salpointe Catholic Lancers have traveled 1,334 miles since May 1 for five state tournament games at four sites in Phoenix.
The trips have all been the same. A stop at Eegee's on the way out of town before settling into the exact same spots on the bus and then visiting Phoenix Desert Vista High School for some batting practice.
The journey ended for the Lancers on Thursday - a few days too early.
Salpointe lost 8-2 to Peoria Liberty in an elimination game in the Division II state tournament at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
"This is the ugly part of the game," Salpointe coach Danny Preble said. "Someone has to go home, and today it's us."
The Lancers go home with a 25-9 record and, according to Preble, advanced further than any Lancers team since 1997. Preble will watch eight of his 10 seniors go on to play college baseball.
"It was an honor to go this far and give ourselves a chance," said third baseman Tyler Kimbrough, one of the eight seniors going on to play at the next level. "We've been working hard since we took the field in January, and everyone went as hard as they could.
"We all wish it could have ended differently, but there are no regrets."
The Lancers fell behind right out of the gate Thursday afternoon. Liberty scored three runs in the first inning off starter Jio Orozco and added two more in the second to jump up 5-0.
The freshman was eventually pulled after recording two more outs and giving up two more runs in the third. Junior Adam Montano came on in relief and threw 3 1/3 effective innings to give the Lancers a chance.
"It was hard to tell what it was with him today," said Preble of Orozco. "Was he nervous? Was he too excited? I don't know. But, he made a few mistakes, and they hit them.
"He did a great job for us this season and is going to be a bulldog for this team for a lot of years to come."
Liberty starter Zach Johnston threw 5 2/3 innings, holding the Lancers to one run on five hits.
Salpointe's lone run off the starter came in the second inning when Ryan Penaflor came through with an RBI single.
The Lancers tried to rally against relief pitcher Tyler Wyatt and loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, trailing 8-1. Hunter Miller delivered an RBI single, but the next two hitters struck out to end the game.
Preble's squad was the final Southern Arizona big school left in the state playoffs.
"I would have liked to have seen Southern Arizona teams do a little better, of course, but it means something to be the final team gone," Preble said. "The tournament is set up with all the big games in Phoenix, so it's an uphill climb, but I thought we did a great job."
Offensively, Liberty was led by Arizona Wildcats signee Nathan Bannister, who was 3 for 3 with a walk, a run scored and an RBI.
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