Baseball is, as they say, a game of inches, and it was inches that made up the eventual gulf between Xavier and UC Santa Barbara today.
There were inches between the heel of Rylan Bannon's glove and its pocket when he couldn't handle a hot grounder to third in the fourth inning. There were inches between the intended target and the runner's heels on Greg Jacknewitz's throw to first when the next man laid down a sac bunt.
Then, with two on and Xavier suddenly clinging to a 2-1 lead in the fourth, UCSB's Austin Bush hit one about 5,000 inches. The nine runs that the Gauchos ended up posting in the fourth inning are the obvious difference in the game, but a few inches either way earlier in the inning and it never goes off the rails.
Xavier kept battling, but it wasn't to be today. The Muskies put 18 men on base today, but they just couldn't find that big hit to bring the rallies to fruition. By the time X used the last of their allotted 27 outs, the writing had been on the wall for a while.
Whenever a season ends, it ends in disappointment, but time and perspective will reveal to the players what we already know: they have a lot to be proud of. The season was foundering at 14-26, but it ended with a monster win over one of the top teams in the nation and the program's first appearance in a regional final. A couple of months ago, Xavier would have jumped at the chance to earn those accomplishments. A couple of months from today, I hope these guys are nothing but proud of what came to an end this weekend.