Velva-Drake-Anamoose baseball coach Matt Weidler doesn't need to be reminded of last year's late-season disappointment. He remembers it well.
Despite claiming the Region 6 regular-season title and the region tournament's top seed, just as they've done this season, the Aggies fell short of a state tournament berth, their ultimate goal, losing out to Bishop Ryan.
But the V-D-A players aren't dwelling on last season. Their focus is set firmly on the task at hand.
"We haven't even really talked about (last year)," Weidler said. "Our guys realize that they've got an opportunity to move on to the state tournament, and that's our next goal."
Redemption could be in the cards for the Aggies as they prepare for another run at the region title, which begins at 1 p.m. Monday at Corbett Field against the winner between Surrey-Our Redeemer's Christian School and Central McLean.
The Aggies remain unbeaten against regional opposition this season.
"Our guys are focused on what they need to do to win the tournament," Weidler said.
Standing in their way, however, is defending region champion Ryan. The Lions are 7-2 in Region 6 play with their only losses coming against the Aggies.
Ryan has picked up its share of lopsided victories this season, but the Lions have struggled to solve V-D-A.
"I'm not sure if we're trying too hard against them or what," Ryan coach Brent Nelson said. "We've put some good swings on some of their pitches, but it ends up going right at somebody. They do a good job of making plays."
The Aggies clipped Ryan the first time 6-4 on April 15, a result secured by Shad Vedaa's fourth-inning, two-run triple. In last week's rematch, V-D-A proved the superior side again, winning 5-1 after a four-hit pitching performance from junior lefty Brady Engebretson.
Pitching promises to be the difference in the tournament. The Aggies have their share of capable arms, and Ryan's staff is arguably the deepest in the tournament.
"Our pitching is gonna get us there," Nelson said. "We've got 5-6 guys that can throw some quality innings for us."
Ryan senior Tyler Allers is expected to start on the mound for Monday's first-round game, which begins at 3 p.m. against the winner of the Garrison-Max/Sawyer play-in.
Staff ace Austin Eggl would then start in the semifinal, a potential showdown with V-D-A, should the Lions reach that stage.
"Bishop Ryan is a tough team," Weidler said. "I don't know if we have their number, so to speak. I think we've just played well against them for those two days. They're a capable team that can come out and beat any team in the region."
While the Lions and Aggies may be the clear-cut contenders for a state berth, that isn't to say that the region title is already won.
No. 3 seed Surrey-Our Redeemer's Christian School (6-10, 4-6 region) enters the region tournament as the wild card of the group. Though a young team, the Mustangs have gone blow-for-blow with the region's top teams this season.
Against the Aggies on April 8, Surrey-ORCS was doubled up 14-7, but prior to a third-inning grand slam from V-D-A senior Drew Effertz, the Mustangs held a 4-1 lead after two innings in Velva.
Surrey-ORCS posed a similar challenge to Ryan earlier this week, trailing the defending region champion by one after four innings in Surrey. The Mustangs were within striking distance in the sixth, as well, down 9-6 until a four-run seventh from the Lions put the game at an unreachable distance for the error-prone Mustangs.
With just two seniors on its roster, mental mistakes have plagued Surrey-ORCS for much of the season.
But without those lapses in concentration, coach Bruce Mack believes his team stacks up with anyone.
"I think the kids understand that," Mack said. "I think they know that we've been right there a couple times, had ourselves in pretty good spots. We just haven't capitalized, and I think they get that. We've played some good baseball this year, but I just think we haven't played enough good baseball."
The Mustangs finished third in last season's region tournament, losing to V-D-A 6-4 in a title-game play in.
Surrey-ORCS could mount a similar challenge this year, but the frequent walks and errors will need to be cut out.
First-round games begin with the Mustangs taking on Central McLean at 4 p.m. today at Corbett Field. The second game of the day - Garrison-Max against Sawyer - will begin 30 minutes after the opener.
Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.