EASTLAKE, Ohio (AP) — Birmingham-Southern’s magnificent, magical ride ended in heartbreak.

The Panthers’ inspiring postseason run, which came as the liberal arts college in Alabama was being shut down for financial failure after more than 160 years, ended on Sunday with an 11-10 loss to Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Division III College World Series.

It’s a painful finish for a never-say-die team that had brought so much joy to the school’s tight-knit community while captivating the hearts of American sports fans who could relate to the Panthers’ story mixed with loss and pride.

Birmingham-Southern built a 10-5 lead through six innings, but couldn’t put away Wisconsin-Whitewater, which scored two runs in the seventh, three in the eighth and got a walk-off homer from Sam Paden leading off the ninth.

Someone had to be the villain.

When Paden’s homer dropped well behind the wall in left, several Birmingham-Southern players stood still as if frozen in disbelief.

There wasn’t a storybook ending after all.

Moments later, coach Jay Weisberg and his players lined up down the third-base line and together they tipped their caps to BCS fans who had made the trip to Cleveland and had been lifted by the team.

The loss is not only the final chapter for Birmingham-Southern but also its solid baseball program, which was vying for its first national title — the Panthers were national runners-up in 2019 — amid the backdrop of no longer having a school.

The doors at BSC were officially shut on Friday as the Panthers opened the eight-team double-elimination tournament with a loss to Salve Regina.

And while they won’t be going home with a trophy, Birmingham-Southern’s players brought joy to a community still grappling with the fact that the school is gone forever.


AP college sports: https://apnews.com/hub/college-sports