Three months and six days ago, 1,071 curious Mavericks fans filed into Taylor Stadium, hoping that things would be different.
Nine innings later, they had their answer.
The Mavericks lost their season opener and nine more games to begin the year. After two consecutive finishes in the Frontier League cellar, they appeared on their way to a third.
Win No. 1 of the season came on June 6, but by then the hole the team had dug was too deep. The shadow of the losing streak blurred the Mavericks’ sight for the duration of 2005.
As that shadow prepared to move out of Columbia – Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to Rockford was Mid-Missouri’s final home game of the season – the Mavericks looked poised to give the 771 in attendance one last glimpse of light.
Left-hander Auggie Rodriguez matched zeroes with Rockford counterpart Justin Olson for the first six innings. Both pitchers were dominant and made quick work of the opposition’s lineup. In the seventh, though, Rodriguez found the bad luck that has too often plagued Mid-Missouri this year. An error by shortstop Dusty Young led to an unearned run.
The Mavericks fought back for an unearned run of their own an inning later. They fell behind for good when Rockford shortstop Olmo Rosario smacked a pitch over the scoreboard in left field with one out in the ninth.
“Auggie pitched a great game,” Mavericks’ manager Jim Gentile said. “(Rosario) took some big cuts. When you’re tied late in the game like that, you might as well.”
Mid-Missouri twice put the tying run aboard in the ninth but couldn’t move him into scoring position.
The Mavericks fell to 30-58. They will travel to Windy City and Kalamazoo for a season-ending road trip that concludes Sept. 5.
“It’s always strange at the end of the year because you’ve waited so long for it to get there,” pitcher Nick Renault said before the game. “It’s always a long road but now you kind of don’t want it to end.”
Young proved that by taking his usual position at shortstop. He was very ill with the flu Tuesday and had considered sitting out. His counterpart in the middle infield, second baseman Dusty Hillman, probably shouldn’t have been in the lineup, either.
A Laurel, Miss., native, Hillman is concerned about his family’s safety in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He will leave the team before the final road trip.
During Tuesday’s game, Mavericks co-owner and president Gary Wendt said that he wasn’t sure about the team’s return for a fourth season in Columbia.
“I would hope we’ll have a better idea in 2 to 4 weeks, but I don’t know,” he said.
Wendt also addressed the proposal he made to the Boone County Commissioners Monday regarding the possibility of a new privately-funded stadium for the team.
“Columbia is a wonderful community with a great quality of life,” Wendt said. “Quite frankly, I believe a city of this size and quality should have a first-caliber minor league ballpark. And we’re hoping that we can partner with either the city or county and make it happen.”