AJ Fuentes

It’s the end of the line for senior AJ Fuentes and some key senior teammates after a tough first-round loss at the state tournament last week. The Willcox baseball varsity fell to Scottsdale Prep, 2-1, in the first round.

WILLCOX — In a season where the Willcox baseball varsity underachieved, the Cowboys were still part of a remarkable seven-team region that qualified every team for the postseason.

The Cowboys were only 3-9 in region play and 6-9 overall, losing their last four, and still nearly knocked off Scottsdale Prep in the first round of the state tournament before bowing, 2-1, last Tuesday in Scottsdale.

“It seemed we had nothing fall for us at the end, with no luck on little gap shots or having other fly balls drop in,” head coach Adrian Fuentes said. “We still made the play-in game and I still believe we were the better team, but due to injuries and loss of athletes, that really hurt us through the midseason.”

A good example of nothing falling for Willcox happened in the fourth inning of the battle against Scottsdale Prep. Designated hitter Miguel Vasquez singled in the tying run during the fifth inning, when Brady Welch stepped up with two on and two out and sent a long fly to left.

“He hit a deep ball to left field, which was going out of the park,” Adrian Fuentes said, “and the left fielder reached over the fence, pulled it back into play, caught it and robbed Brady of a three-run homer.”

It also robbed Willcox of its last best chance to win the game as “we just did not show up with our bats,” the coach said. Scottsdale Prep rallied for the winning run in the bottom of the seventh after a pair of crucial errors by the Cowboys.

It made a loser of Eli Madrid, who allowed just two runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts and three walks.

Madrid was one-for-four at the plate, while AJ Fuentes was three-for-four, and Ote Allsup and Miguel Vasquez were each two-for-three, but clutch hits didn’t come from the rest as Willcox was eliminated with the loss.

Although five starters will return next season and coach Fuentes is excited about young talent from the JV and the eighth-grade program, it will be tough to make up for some losses.

“We’re losing Welch, who swung the bat real well this year,” the coach said. “Also Tanner DeBaun, a starter in his first year out and a big help for us in center field who reached base a lot with his speed.

“We’re losing AJ and Eli, our co-MVPs who played hard and hit the ball well,” he added. “They played all four years and never gave up.”

Madrid was also first-team all-region and Offensive Player of the Year, while AJ Fuentes was named second-team all-region catcher.

The returners will be led by honorable mention, all-region utility player Ote Allsup, along with Caiden Hall, David Peterson, Robert Lopez, Vasquez and Derek Terry.

As for Coach Fuentes, “I’m still planning on being here as long as the school plans on having me; I’ll be there.”

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