The Neepawa Farmers fell just shy of winning both the regular season and post-season titles this season in the MSBL.
Down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, the Farmers were in a must-win situation in Neepawa against the Brandon Cloverleafs.
The Cloverleafs jumped out to a 3-0 lead after four innings.
Brandon's starting pitcher Sean Dryden continued to keep the Farmers bats at bay until the bottom of the seventh inning where Neepawa's Eddie Malone was brought home off an Ian Hockin double to centre field.
The Farmers continued on to load the bases with only one out in the inning but Brandon's relief pitcher Ryan Johnson forced a fielder's choice and registered another out to end the inning with Brandon still leading 3-1.
The Cloverleafs added one more run in the ninth to finish the game's scoring at 4-1 in its favour.
Josh Loewen took the loss for Neepawa after striking out three and allowing three runs in six innings pitched. Tyler Reiner allowed one run in three innings of relief where he struckout three batters.
Offensively, Neepawa wasn't able to get its bats going as Brandon's pitchers Dryden and Johnson combined to allow only three hits and six walks all game.
Neepawa won the first game of the series 7-6 before losing four straight games to Brandon (2-1, 10-0, 4-3 and 4-1).
Coach Mike Levandosky believes one of the reasons for Brandon getting the upper hand to close out the series was that Neepawa wasn't able to get its offence going after Game 1.
"We got off to a good start," Levandosky said. "After that, the bats just weren't there. We weren't getting the hitting that we needed, and give credit to their pitching because they really shut us down."
While the Farmers weren't able to clinch the postseason title, Levandosky still believes his team's performance this season was commendable.
Neepawa made drastic improvements all-around this season, going from worst to first in the MSBL in a matter of only one year. In 20 games, Neepawa posted a 14-win, 6-loss record while six of the year-end awards went to Farmers.
Neepawa's Josh Loewen and Greg Hockin have also been chosen by the Reston Rockets – last season's MSBL champions – to join their roster for the 2012 National Championships.
"I thought it was a very successful season," Levandosky said. "I was really proud of how the guys played. We had great fans this year too, and a lot of young fans out too, which is good to see."
Isaac Rodriguez, the league's regular season MVP, was named Neepawa's Playoff MVP.
Levandosky added while it's always tough to know whether import players will return, he hopes Eddie Malone, Vince Lujan and Rodriguez can come back for next season. The coach also said no players have expressed interest in leaving the team next season and he'd be happy to see a full-roster retention.