When you lose a game, the first thought is to plays not made.
Northwestern baseball coach Mitch Walters, however, couldnt bring himself to that conversation, at least not Monday night.
The Trojans fell 3-2 to Mauldin in the losers bracket of the Class AAAA Upper State playoffs, finishing their season at 25-5.
With three of those losses in the last week, shock would have been reasonable. But this was a quieter despair.
Theres nothing you can say right now that makes it make any sense, Walters said as his team full of seniors filed quietly out the dugout for the last time. Maybe tomorrow, but not right now.
Now, you just dont know what to say.
There could have been a full conversation about missed opportunities, but to Walters, it didnt feel right.
Trojans starter Chapman Gardiner who pitched so well last week to win the district title allowed Mauldin off the hook in the third, and his teammates couldnt get the Mavericks back in the boat the rest of the night.
Leading 2-1 after two innings (on Gardiners RBI single in the first and Jonathan Smiths cobbled-together run in the second), the tone of the game changed on one swing.
Gardiner worked the bottom of the order for two quick outs, and had Mauldin shortstop Cory Thompson in an 0-2 hole.
But after nibbling at the edges for three straight balls, Thompson took the full count pitch deep to left field for a home run which tied the game.
It was one play and made by a talented player who recently committed to South Carolina but it was indicative of the night.
Northwestern wasted a two-on, no-out opportunity in its half of the fourth, when Josh Crumps bunt was high enough to give Mauldin a chance to make a play, but not high enough to make runners hold. Mauldin third baseman Alex Eccles dove to catch it, but when it short-hopped him, he had enough time to beat Northwesterns Sammy Taormina to the bag for the force out, though Walters thought Eccles nearly stepped on Taorminas hand.
A quick ground out and strikeout later, that chance was gone.
Right there we were thinking at least one, maybe two, Walters said. You cant expect to get a call there, you have to earn it.
The Trojans got two on in the fifth, but with two outs, Taormina grounded into a first-pitch fielders choice to end the last real threat.
In the top of the sixth, another two-out, one-pitch mistake was deposited over the right field wall by Mauldins Ramon Osuna, giving the Mavericks all the edge theyd need when Northwestern came up empty at the plate.
As well as they played all season, the Trojans scratched together just seven hits in their final two games, four of them Monday and three in Saturdays loss at Boiling Springs.
But those werent the numbers Walters wanted to dwell on in the aftermath.
He talked about his senior class, who were funeral somber as they walked away.
He talked about getting to the Upper State playoffs twice in a row, and the run they had in the regular season.
He just couldnt make it make any sense.
Were there missed opportunities? Definitely, and they know that, Walters said. But to sit here and name them wouldnt do any good.
It hurts enough for all of us, so we talked about the positive rather than the negative. Its frustrating, but you cant ask for much better than what this class did. I think if you offered most teams 25-5, theyd take it. It just doesnt mean much to say that right now.
Mauldin 3, Northwestern 2
WP - Layton Meachem; LP - Chapman Gardiner. Leading hitters: Mauldin: Ramon Osuna, 2-for-3, HR; Northwestern: Gardiner 2-for-3.
Record: Northwestern 25-5.
Darin Gantt 803-326-4312