An aura of hope and promise hangs in the air when a baseball team plays its home opener each year.
When that team has the bases loaded with no outs late in the game, fans sit on the edge of their seats. Or stand.
That was the case Monday night at Memorial Stadium. The Boise Hawks had the bases juiced in the bottom of the seventh, and appeared to be on the verge of taking the lead in their contest with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
Alas, Boise produced just two runs in the inning, and the Volcanoes' lead held up.
The promise that was in the air earlier in the evening turned to disappointment as a crowd of 3,097 watched the Volcanoes hold on for the 8-6 victory.
"We had the tying run at the plate late a couple times and just couldn't get that big hit," first-year manager Gary Van Tol said. "That's just baseball."
After taking two of three games on the road in Eugene to start the season, Boise dropped to 2-2. Salem-Keizer improved to 4-0.
Despite the loss, fans got their first look at couple players who hope to make some noise this season.
Outfielder Yasiel Balaguert drove in his fifth and sixth runs of the young season with a long double to left-center field in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the score at 3-3.
Left fielder Trevor Gretzky led off the bottom of the third inning with a double and reached third base when Salem-Keizer left fielder Shilo McCall misplayed the ball. Gretzky scored Boise's first run of the season at Memorial Stadium when he was driven in by David Bote. It was Gretzky's first hit in a Hawks uniform.
"It felt good to get my first one out of the way, get a nice hit and run around a little bit," the 20-year-old Gretzky said. "But it's kind of a bummer because we lost."
Van Tol wasn't prepared to throw in the towel after the second loss, especially after what he saw out of his young team in Eugene in the opening series.
"It looked like both teams were playing after their first long bus rides," Van Tol said. "You want to put on a good show for the home crowd, but this isn't the team that people in Eugene saw last weekend."
Indeed, there are some optimistic signs.
Boise's starting pitchers did not allow a run in 14.2 innings of work in those three road games. Boise's pitching staff came into Monday's game with a 1.04 ERA, by far the best in the Northwest League.
The Hawks committed just one error in the first four contests, an impressive statistic for a young, short-season Class A team just beginning its season.
"That's why we're not going to freak out, by any means," Val Tol said. "It's just one of those games where you're glad it's over. We just need to regroup and be ready for tomorrow."