Only 12 high school baseball teams per season earn the right to play for a state title.
In 2012, Buena had the luxury of being in that elite class for the first time in program history.
The Chiefs would fall 11-4 in the Group II championship game to Mahwah, but that did little to dampen an otherwise impressive season for Buena.
The team captured a Cape-Atlantic League National Conference crown along with the Division I title, won its first sectional title since 2008 with a 14-5 win over the Gloucester Institute of Technology on June 1 and punched its ticket to the Group II final with its first-ever win in a state semifinal game by beating Central champ Raritan 6-4 at Rider University on June 5.
Buena, which finished the season with a mark of 25-8, also appeared in the prestigious Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic tournament for a fourth-straight year, though its title defense ended in a first-round, extra-innings loss to Holy Cross.
For its busy, successful season, Buena is the 2012 Daily Journal Baseball Team of the Year.
“It is an empty feeling,” Buena coach George West said of losing in the state final, “but I told the boys we have a sectional title, we have a Cape-Atlantic League title, we went one game further in the state playoffs than we did in 2008, that’s our second sectional title in the school’s 40 years.
“I mean, they’re doing some special things. They have a lot to be proud of.”
Losing seniors Manny Colon, Anthony Lopez, Justin Geri and Anthony Donato will hurt the Chiefs since the group appeared in all 33 games for the team this season. Though Buena, as it usually does, should remain competitive into the future.
Most impressive was the play of the right side of the infield, which consisted of freshmen first baseman Denny Brady and second baseman Marco Rios. Brady hit .301 with 19 RBIs, while Rios was a defensive standout who added 14 RBIs and was 3-for-3 in the state title game.
The Chiefs allowed just 14 runs in five playoff wins en route to their state final appearance. The 11 runs Buena yielded to Mahwah in the Group II title game was a season-high.
Regardless, the 2012 campaign will go down in Chiefs history as the first of its kind.