The excitement of their first trip to the state baseball playoffs in 15 years turned to frustration, then desperation and, ultimately, to dejection.
For the Aquinas players and coach Mike Laney, there was no solace in the notion that the 2003 season was a giant step forward for a program that endured more than a decade of futility.
The Irish saw their season end at the hands of Gordon Lee, who swept them 3-0 and 12-0 in the first round of the Class A playoffs Friday night at Masters City.
After an 18-7 regular season and clinching the No. 2 seed in Region 7 with a win over Georgia Military College last week, the Irish couldn't deliver on Friday and were shutout for the first two times this season.
"We just had a meltdown; an absolute meltdown," said Laney, whose Irish managed only two hits and committed eight errors in the two games. "I would love to say it was pressure. I just don't believe it. We've been in big ball games. We've won big ball games. We just didn't get it done tonight."
Gordon Lee (18-10) got it done in the opener behind a solid pitching performance by Eric Thornburg, who tossed a complete game one-hitter in a game that was delayed by more than 90 minutes in the fourth inning because of rain.
Aquinas senior left-hander Blake Quarles held Gordon Lee to five hits, but became the victim of his own command problems.
Quarles walked five and hit two batters, and Gordon Lee scored the first and only run it would need on a bases-loaded walk by Jon Hentz in the third inning.
After hanging tough in Game 1, the Irish fell behind early in Game 2 and soon fell apart.
Gordon Lee took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when leadoff hitter Zach Burns scored on an error by first baseman Tim Redd, then struck for five runs in the second off pitcher Mike Hartley. Pitcher Adam Cross belted a three-run home run to left-center field to make to 6-0.
The Trojans were helped by five Aquinas errors in the fourth inning, in which they batted and added six more runs to make it 12-0.
The game was halted after five innings because of the 10-run rule.
"We always expect to get into the playoffs every year but always fell short, but we finally did it this year, and that's just what we wanted," Quarles said. "But tonight wasn't our night. I think guys were getting tired in the second game and we just rolled over. It's a tough way to end it."
Cross allowed just one hit in five innings - a second-inning double to Hartley. He did not walk a batter and struck out five.
Aquinas committed seven errors in Game 2, which led to 10 unearned runs against Hartley and Redd, who came on in relief in the second.
"I'm proud of them; it was a great year," Laney said. "We didn't lay down. We just lost. It hurts."
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