Through two years and every conceivable situation thrown at them, the Onondaga 16-18 All-Stars had proven up to the task, claiming one Babe Ruth World Series baseball championship in the Texas heat and pulling within two victories of doing so again on the Alabama Gulf Coast 12 months later.
But the dream of back-to-back championships came to an end Wednesday afternoon in the semifinals of the 2013 Babe Ruth World Series, where the Gulf Coast Rawdogs, from the host state of Alabama, defeated Onondaga by a score of 5-3.
Even a first-place finish in the American division of round-robin play, and a bye straight into the semifinals, could not save Onondaga against the Rawdogs, who took an early 5-0 ead and held off the defending champions' late comeback attempt.
After losing its opening game of the tournament, Gulf Coast won three in a row in the National division to advance to the first elimination round on Wednesday, where it edged Charleston (Mo.) 2-1 to earn its semifinal berth.
Meanwhile, Onondaga, who had also gone 3-1 in pool play (losing only a meaningless game to host Covington County after clinching first place in the division), sent Westhill pitching ace Ben Walsh to the mound, hoping for a repeat of his 5-0 shutout of San Benito (Calif.) in the Aug. 15 opener.
But the Le Moyne College-bound Walsh, who had pitched in relief the day before against Charleston, gave up a run in the first inning and saw Gulf Coast break it open with three runs in the top of the third and another run in the fourth.
Trailing 5-0, Onondaga started to climb back into the game in the fourth, loading the bases and scoring twice on a sacrifice fly from Frank Vigliotti (Henninger) and a single from Chris Schad (Bishop Grimes), and tacked on a run in the fifth on a double by Henninger's Avery Brooks.
Cory Poplawski, who replaced Walsh on the mound, kept the game close, getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh, but Gulf Coast recorded the final three outs to advance to Thursday's final against Gulf Coast, from Texas.