AUGUSTA — It was a loss, and it was elimination. But that wasn’t the reason there were tears in the eyes and lumps in the throats of the players on the Augusta 13-15 Babe Ruth baseball team Monday afternoon.

They were there because this quite possibly meant goodbye. Augusta fell to Tri-County 6-5 in the quarterfinals of the New England tournament at Morton Field, putting an end to its third straight regional appearance.

And, most significantly, its last one. There is no senior Babe Ruth level up next, so for the Augusta team, Monday likely marked the end of the road both now and going forward.

“It’s very surreal,” pitcher and shortstop Bobby Stolt said. “And it sucks.”

“Right now for me, I’m kind of at a loss for words,” center fielder Riley Geyer said. “This is … probably my last year with this group, and I’ve been with this group the last three years. It’s been really nice, I’m going to miss these guys.”

American Legion is the next summer baseball level, but given the Legion structure, a breakup may be inevitable. The Augusta Babe Ruth team draws from parts of 16 communities, including Augusta, Gardiner, China and Vassalboro, but while Hallowell and Augusta combine for the same Legion team, Gardiner and China, for instance, had players comprise the Capitals team.

“This is tough, because now we’re all going separate ways, playing on different legion teams. We don’t have the same coaches from the same areas,” Stolt said. “It’d be difficult. We’d have to start a new team.”

“I’m going to see these kids a lot during the summer, and a lot of the kids from Cony will be playing on my team,” said pitcher Logan Dupont, a Hall-Dale varsity player. “But some of them I probably won’t see for a while or ever again. It’s kind of sad thinking about that.”

That explains why Augusta did all it could to keep the run going. After losses in the first two pool play games, the hosts needed a win against St. Johnsbury, Vermont to stave off elimination, one they got via a dominant 15-4 decision.

And on Monday, after Tri-County — which supplanted Augusta as the Maine state champion — took a 5-2 lead in the fifth inning, the Capital Area team went to work again in the sixth. After an error and fielder’s choice, Geyer tripled to deep left to score Nick Barber. Eli Bezanson — one of two new players on the team — roped a single to left, scoring Geyer. Luke Anderson then drilled a double to left, scoring Bezanson and turning a three-run deficit into a tie game in a span of 10 pitches.

“That was crazy,” Dupont said. “I did not see that coming at all, but then you see one hit. Another hit. Everybody’s hitting bombs, and it’s really great. It’s motivating.”

But it didn’t last. Josh Power — who came on in relief to get Tri-County out of the jam — led off the sixth with a double, Fisher Cormier singled and Dallas Berry reached on an infield single that scored Power.

There was no rally this time. Augusta went 1-2-3 in the seventh, and the hosts were done.

“This definitely struck me hard,” Geyer said. “I thought we were going to pull it out at the end, but it didn’t work.”

“The lower half of our lineup really came alive and put a pounding on a couple of them, just got the crowd going and the bench going. … And they came right back,” coach Jason Douin said. “Just so close. All these games, we just couldn’t finish them.”

It’s been a theme at regionals for Augusta, which didn’t get past the quarterfinals in either of the three tries, but this one seemed to sting a little more. The hosts knew they had the team to go deep, they just needed to stick to their pattern of solid pitching and mistake-free defense.

And though the 1-3 record was deceiving — Augusta lost two games by a combined three runs, and trailed by one run in the fifth inning of the other — the players and coaches knew they simply weren’t good enough in those areas.

“We definitely did not get that done. We did not throw strikes as much as we wanted,” Dupont said. “I didn’t, everyone didn’t, no one threw as well as they wanted to. And if we did that, we could have won this whole tournament. I know we could have.”

They’re hoping there will be more chapters to the story. While the players and coaches weren’t optimistic about their chances of all playing together again, they weren’t willing to rule it out, either.

“If we can make it happen, I’m sure we’ll give it a chance,” Douin said. “It’d be nice if we could keep them together. I know they all enjoyed playing with each other, they’ve become really good friends with each other, and I think they would look forward to that. But that’s kind of outside of our control at the moment.”

Even if it doesn’t happen, the resume still looks pretty good.

“They beat us,” Geyer said. “But hey, two state championships and three straight regional tournament appearances is pretty good for us, I’d say.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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