It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
And nobody, but nobody, would have expected it.
Game 3 of the best 2-of-3 series between the Garden City Wind and the Trinidad (Colo.) Triggers had all the earmarks of an evenly-matched showdown to decide which team would move on and represent the Pecos League North Division in the league’s championship series next week.
Even after four innings of Friday’s winner-take-all contest, it was a battle royal between the top two teams of the North Division, the game tied at 1-1.
But that was where things went south for the Wind, and there wasn’t any of the usual summer southerly breezes blowing on their behalf.
The Triggers unloaded two runs in the fifth, added four more in each of the sixth and eighth innings and won going away 11-1.
They will now await the winner of the South Division series between Roswell, N.M. and Tucson, Ariz. Those two teams were locked in Game 2 at press time Friday after Tucson won the series opener Thursday.
Friday night’s season-ending effort will certainly be one for the Wind to forget, but the season won’t.
From cellar-dwellar a year ago in their first season, the Wind put together a memorable campaign in which they won 39 games and lost 28, and finished three games ahead of the Triggers for the division title.
“That’s baseball and sometimes you’re the hero and sometimes you’re not,” said Wind shortstop Joey Cecere, who had one of the best seasons by any Garden City player. “About 95 percent of the teams end their season on a loss. But you can’t hang your head on one bad game. We’ve been a good team all summer and I think it was a good time for Garden City.”
Cecere was one of the few bright spots in the lopsided loss, going 3 for 4 and scoring the lone Wind run in the third on a groundout by Clay Ardeeser.
“We’d done a great job of coming back during the season, and we were just one comeback shy,” Cecere said.
All Cecere could do was tip his hat to Trinidad as the Triggers move on.
“They’re a really good team, and they’ve got a lot of guys who can play at different levels,” Cecere said of the Triggers. “We were a good matchup for them, except tonight.”
The two divisional foes had met 16 times during the regular season and the first two playoff games before the showdown game, and the Triggers held a 13-7 advantage.
For first-year manager Bill Moore, the loss was stinging after he guided the team a year after they had gone 21-43.
“It’s all about the players,” Moore said of the team’s improvement. “If you don’t have the players, you won’t win. My job is to place them where they have the best chance to do that.”
It was a bittersweet ending, too, for the veteran baseball manager.
When catcher Brandon Nelson was called out on a third strike to end the Wind’s sixth inning, it was debatable whether or not the ball actually hit the ground and bounced up into the catcher’s glove.
Moore argued the call with the home plate umpire as did other Wind players, and before the disagreement was over, Moore and an undetermined number of Wind players had been ejected.
“That pretty much took the emotional comeback away from us,” Moore said of the ejections. “The players are good people and it’s too bad to end the season the way it did.
“Before that (Wind down 7-1), nobody was folding their tent and going home,” Moore said.
But it was the big bats for the Triggers that in the end made all the difference.
They pounded out 17 hits, with Erik Poldroo having the biggest night of all, with four hits, including a towering three-run home run that came on the second pitch from third Wind pitcher Austin Boyle in the sixth inning.
The Wind’s Eric Esquillin was the only other multi-hit player as he finished with two, including a double.
Notes: At press time, Roswell’s Invaders held a 2-1 lead over the Tucson Saguaros in Game 2 of the South Division series. A third and deciding game, if necessary, would be played Saturday night in Tucson.
Trinidad 000 124 040 — 11 17 0
Garden City 001 000 000 — 1 8 2
Trinidad: Robinson, Karasinski (7), Swartout (8), Eigner (9) and Cuyos; Garden City: Riordan, White (6), Boyle (6), Jaquez (7), Torrey (8), Powers (8), Ovalles (9) and Nelson.
2B—TRI (Cheatham, Cuyos), GC (Esquilin, Roundtree). HR—TRI: Poldroo. LOB—Trinidad 12, Garden City 8.