With sullen faces and sagging shoulders, the Garden City Wind tipped their hats to a crowd packed into Clint Lightner Stadium late Tuesday night.
The fans roared in appreciation of the winningest club in franchise history. But the applause didn’t come after a win.
No, it came after the Wind were eliminated from the Pecos League playoffs on a groundout double play to end the 6-2 loss to Roswell, which advances to the Mountain Division Championship Series at Alpine. Roswell won the best-of-three series opener, 12-8, in comeback fashion on Monday.
Not long after the final out Tuesday, the Wind took a knee together in right field for their last teem meeting, splintering off afterwards to go on their separate paths — but not before each player gave each and every other player a long hug good-bye.
“We’ve known each other for years,” Wind manager David Peterson said. “We’ve always talked about all playing together eventually ... We were playing for more than just ourselves (this season).”
The Wind finish the season 42-20, 11 wins more than all of 2018 and 2017 seasons combined. In 2017, it was Peterson that helmed the Wind, before leaving in 2018 and returning to manage the Wind to — by all measures — a highly successful turnaround season.
“It means everything, especially after everything that happened in 2017, the doubt, everything like that,” Peterson said. “Being able to come back and turn things around ...”
Peterson’s voice trailed off as he fought back his emotions, having just witnessed his team fall short of the ultimate goal of a Pecos League championship.
On Monday, the Wind took an early 7-1 lead, just to have Roswell chip away at that advantage in chunks and eventually overtake the Wind in the 12-8 win. On Tuesday, the Wind’s early lead was much smaller.
After the two teams exchanged RBI singles in the second, the Wind got on top in the third when Jordan Pontious reached first on an error, then scored on Carson Lee’s RBI double.
But in the fifth, Roswell’s Austin Maltby doubled off Wind starter Zack Kammerman, and Kirby Lambert followed with a single to draw the Invaders even.
Matt Paciello also then singled, followed by Jalin Lawson’s RBI single to give the Invaders a 3-2 lead. Kammerman was relieved by Kyle Porter in the sixth, but he gave up a pair of RBI singles in the sixth as the Invaders stretched the lead to 5-2, then added an insurance run in the eighth.
The Wind got a runner on in each of the eighth and ninth innings but never were able to rally, as a Peter Pena groundball to shortstop set up a game- and season-ending 6-4-3 double play.
“It’s going to sting whether we lose by 1 or by 100,” Peterson said. “It’s gonna suck regardless. That’s playoff baseball. Nothing is ever safe, and everything is high intensity. My hat’s off to these guys. They did everything they could.”