All season long, the Baldwinsville baseball team had been haunted by an inability to put runs on the board.
And that ghost returned in last Tuesday's Section III Class AA first-round game, where the no. 7 seed Bees saw its season end with a 2-0 loss to no. 10 seed Auburn.
As is custom in an opening playoff game, both sides went with their pitching aces. B'ville chose junior Brad Wright, while the Maroons countered with Mike Assmann.
Early on, Wright got into trouble, putting five Auburn runners on base in the first two innings. Both times, Wright escaped, earning a pair of strikeouts in the first inning and, an inning later, getting out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam with a force play and double play.
Meanwhile, Assmann was mowing down B'ville's hitters, not allowing a hit over the first six innings of play. Even in the fifth inning, when Brett Botsford reached on an error and moved to third base with two out, Assmann bore down and watched Jeff Watson fly out to end the threat.
In the bottom of the seventh, with the game still 0-0, Nick Tryniski got his team's first hit, a bloop single inside the right-field line, and Botsford reached on a bunt, putting the winning run on second base with one out.
Again, Assmann was up to the challenge, striking out both Justin Montague and Eric Manley to send the game to extra innings.
In such a game, one break can turn things around. Auburn got two of them in the top of the eighth, as one man reached base on a dropped third strike and another just beat out a possible double-play grounder.
After a long flyout, Noah Donch struck the big blow, a double to left field that brought home the game's first run. A misjudged fly ball seconds later gave Auburn an insurance run, which Assmann didn't need, as he closed the game with two more strikeouts, giving him 14 for the afternoon.
Wright took the loss, despite a complete-game effort where he gave up just six hits and nothing for extra bases until Donch's double.
B'ville finished its tumultuous season 12-9, a campaign that started with head coach Mark Bader taking a leave of absence to fight an advanced form of cancer. Bader would return to aid Dave Penafeather in the dugout.
Tryniski, Manley, Pat Hall, Eric Watson, Paul Conte, Steve D'Eredita, Brent Brady, Michael Reid, Tom Engels and Tom Arendt all will depart. Botsford, Montague, Wright and Bo Watson form the core of the Bees' returning unit in 2008.