The Boise Hawks were four outs away from a Northwest League title.
Instead, the 1,517 fans in attendance went numb along with the Hawks as the Vancouver Canadians exploded for seven runs with two outs in the eighth inning.
Vancouver went on to a 12-9 victory, claiming the league championship Sunday at Memorial Stadium.
Unfortunately, they hit the ball and we didnt make the plays, Hawks utility player Stephen Bruno said. A couple walks here and there, it just wasnt our day. We didnt put it together at the end.
Prior to Game 3, Boise manager Mark Johnson was philosophical about the deciding contest.
Win or lose, its been great, he said.
Johnson didnt change his stance after the stinging defeat.
Its been a hell of a year for a lot of guys who have really overcame a lot of things and matured, he said. And theyve gotten a lot better. Thats what its all about, improving and learning how to play the game the right way.
Vancouvers big inning was eerily reminiscent of Game 1 of the series, when the Canadians scored seven runs in the seventh inning as they erased a 7-1 Boise lead and went on to win 10-7.
Theres still some things to learn, Johnson said. But as far as where they came from Day One, wow, cant be prouder of them.
The Canadians started the game with a tworun first inning, and Vancouver had to feel pretty good about that early lead, especially with Taylor Cole getting the start. Cole, a right-hander, was the top pitcher in the league during the regular season, when he went 6-0 with a 0.81 ERA.
But the best hitting team in the league went right after Cole. Gioskar Amaya led off with an infield single. Bruno, the league batting champion, knocked in Amaya with a double.
If the Hawks were suddenly feeling good about their prospects against Cole, they were feeling even better when slugger Dan Vogelbach smacked a three-run homer over the 400-foot sign in center field.
Vogelbachs big swing gave the Hawks a 4-2 lead that held up until the fourth inning.
Tayler Scott went 5-1 in the regular season and was the Hawks most consistent starter, but he wasnt at his best Sunday night. He left in the top of the fourth after giving up five earned runs on 10 hits.
But game after game this season, the Hawks the best hitting team in the league answered rallies with rallies of their own. They did so again in the bottom of the fourth. After a three-run inning, they had a 7-5 lead, a lead that stood until the Canadians big eighth inning.
Reliever Michael Heesch left the game with that lead intact, but he became another spectator as Vancouver scored seven unearned runs against fellow relievers Tyler Bremer and Eddie Orozco.
It was pretty tough, he said. It just got out of hand. Theres nothing you can do, but sit there and watch it.
Bruno said the loss hurt, but he wouldnt let it wash away the lessons he had learned as a Hawk this summer.
A lot of guys are upset in there, he said. But really, youve got to look at the big picture and we had a hell of a season.
Johnson echoed that sentiment.
Its been fun to watch them play, Johnson said of his players as he stood outside of the clubhouse after the game. Ive enjoyed it, and theres a lot of guys in there that are going to play in the big leagues.
Chris Langrill: 377-6424