FLORENCE — Simply put, the Class B Bitterroot Bucs' Rasmussen tournament didn't end the way the hosting club wanted it to. Sunday's semifinal game-clinching moment for Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada came on wild pitch that brought home the winning run in a 5-4 victory for the team from North of the Border.
But even in heartache, there are shining moments. These are the snapshots that could-have-been the defining play in a victory, and are often lost on a page after defeat.
Sure, the Bucs lost, but that shouldn't take away from the highlight reel, fully extended diving catch Bucs centerfielder Jaden Lundquist made to rob Cranbrook's Harper Harris of extra bases in the bottom of the sixth inning, helping to preserve a 4-4 tie.
"That was one that was a momentum changer, it probably saved the game for us there earlier," Bucs coach Tyler Scully said. "(Jaden is) just one of those guys that doesn’t get to hit a whole lot, but his defense really can win games. It’s nice to see him working his butt off for us out there."
Those moments matter, even in defeat. They matter because the games matter — just ask the kids playing them.
"Had I not made the catch then we could have lost. I mean, these games mean a lot. We tried," a visibly emotional Lundquist said after the game.
There's pride every time a team takes the field. That pride was particularly amped up at the weekend tournament in Florence. The Rasmussen tournament is played in honor of the late Wilma Rasmussen, a longtime Bucs fan, World War II Veteran and public volunteer. The kids wanted to win.
And they did initially, as the Bucs opened the tourney with a walk-off win from rising-freshman Kenny Noland. Bitterroot added another win against Libby on Saturday.
FLORENCE — If Wilma Rasmussen — the namesake of the Bitterroot Bucs' rekindled Rasmussen Ame…
In a Saturday defeat there was a silver lining, too. A loss to the Missoula Mavericks B squad — the eventual tournament champion — set up a preferred semifinal matchup against Cranbrook on Sunday.
The Saturday night game also allowed a handful of Bucs to garner some experience at positions they've never played before, including soon-to-be Florence eighth grader, Matthew Clark.
Clark, nicknamed "Kevin" by his teammates due to a mixup in the preseason, pitched for the first time in his career on Saturday.
And he posted a 0.00 ERA after two complete innings.
"I didn't think I was going to do great," said Clark, who couldn't help but smile on the mound as Mavs batters turned into outs. "I was just pumping strikes. I was working on a circle change with coach out there, but yeah, it was mainly just fastballs. It was fun."
And ultimately, that's what baseball is supposed to be, right? Fun. Winning is important, and it certainly can make it more fun.
It was fun, after all, when the Bucs tied up Sunday's semifinal game 4-4 with a three-run sixth inning. It was fun when Jeron McNair, who scored the game tying run in the sixth, allowed no earned runs (four scored) while working six inning on the hill with four strikeouts in Sunday's semifinal.
A loss at the end of the game shouldn't take away from that. Plus, there's always takeaways to be had in defeat — often the best learning device anyway.
"It was a great experience for these guys," coach Scully said. "It’s our first real tournament of the year. They get a feel for how we do things in a tournament setting, what our plan is. How we want to go about it to give us the best chance to get to the championship games in these tournaments.
"We have two more coming up, the last one being the state championship in Hamilton and hopefully we can get this down to a science where we can figure it out and win it."
The building blocks to do just that were there last weekend for the Bucs — all it takes is just a few more of those positive moments.