SENECA -- The sting of knowing they were walking off the field at Shaver Recreation Complex for the last time -- and that the Dixie Boys World Series trophy wasn't coming with them -- would have been bad enough.
But the way Beaufort's remarkable postseason run ended gave the agony of defeat a sharper edge than usual.
Beaufort's all-stars made an uncharacteristic eight errors, which led to 11 unearned runs for the host team from Seneca as it beat Beaufort 16-6 in an elimination game Tuesday.
"We've had a real good run," said shortstop Tony Nolan -- Friday's home run derby champion -- who belted his third homer of the tournament in the fourth inning. "I guess we just didn't play as a team tonight, and it showed. ... We just lost focus."
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The unraveling began in the top of the fourth, when two Beaufort errors and four Seneca hits produced a five-run rally to break open a tie game.
Nolan blasted his three-run home run in the bottom of the inning to cut it to 8-6, but Beaufort never got any closer. Seneca reliever Colby Loggins settled in and threw three scoreless innings to pick up the win, and Seneca tacked on at least one run in each of the last three frames to move one step closer to becoming the first host team to win a Dixie World Series.
"They came out and took care of business today," Beaufort manager Mike Smith said. "They looked like they had an extra hop in their step. They were very focused, and I think they wanted this game in a bad way."
Loggins put Seneca on top 2-0 in the first with a sharp single to score Taylor Vassey and Justin Cliburn, but Beaufort bounced right back with a two-run home run by David Tilton in the bottom half to tie it. After Seneca regained the lead in the second, Thomas Parker doubled home Tilton to tie it again in the third.
But unlike their other games this week -- Beaufort came back to win three times -- the boys from Beaufort could never take the lead.
Seneca rapped out 11 hits, and Beaufort's usually steady defense showed signs of fatigue.
"Those guys were tough outs, every one of them," Smith said. "We've been able to come up with big strikeouts when we needed them all week, and we couldn't do that with them. They put the ball in play and put the pressure on us."
When Seneca tacked on five more runs in the seventh, the World Series dream was all but over for the first Beaufort team to win a game in a Dixie World Series.
"We're still feeling pretty excited that we got here," said second baseman Thomas Smith, who went 2-for-4 and scored a run. "But we're wishing we could've gotten a couple more wins."
Now it's up to the host team to maintain a streak of five consecutive years that a South Carolina squad has won the Dixie Boys World Series. They will have to win twice today to complete that feat.
"I hope they muster up and take it all," Mike Smith said.
As for his team, Smith can't help but think back to the district tournament five weeks ago, when they lost their second game of the tourney to Bluffton and had to win three in a row just to get to the state tournament.
It has been a long journey since that defeat, even if it didn't end at the ultimate destination.
"I can look back and say we've come a long way," Smith said. "There aren't many teams that win district. There are much fewer teams that win state. And to come and be one of the last four teams playing at the World Series, that's an accomplishment that nobody can take away. These guys earned it."