COLUMBUS, Ga. --- The dugout cleared after another loss to Columbus, the Thomson baseball players quietly filed out and made their way toward the bus with family and friends supporting them with cheers as one woman yelled, "We love you!"
This was not the way the season was supposed to end, not after entering the GHSA Class AAA state semifinals with a 28-2 record, a Region 3-AAA championship and a 22-game unbeaten streak.
But with the combined 22-0 scoreline in the doubleheader defeat to Columbus -- the second year in a row the Blue Devils eliminated the Bulldogs in the state semifinals -- Thomson had to reflect on the recent accomplishments instead of getting a chance to add to them.
"Obviously it didn't end like we wanted to, but you can't help but be pleased with that," senior Nic Wood said about making two consecutive semifinal appearances. "But I guess the positive note is, we've all been playing together and it's just been fun being out here with one another. To have that kind of success two years in a row, it's something to be proud of. Not many can do that."
Wood is just one member of a veteran club that went a combined 55-10 the past two seasons, won the region title both years and was one victory away from reaching the state championship series in 2010.
Though Wood and the other senior players step aside, Thomson coach Jason Osborn is in some ways like a graduating senior himself because he's moving on, too.
Osborn, who also coached the Bulldogs softball team, was an assistant baseball coach under Terry Holder before moving up to head coach for the 2010 season.
However, this year's two-game series with Columbus was his last as Thomson coach as the former Hephzibah baseball head man will be the new softball coach at Lumpkin County next season, with another coaching role possible.
"I said from day one, I'm in a great place for me, but it's not conducive to the family we want to have. Something had to give, and I'll have opportunities later on down the road I hope," Osborn said.
"If you're doing something for your kids, I don't think you can go wrong."
Though next year will see some changes, the Bulldogs have cemented a solid foundation for the program.
There's also a lot of pride in that black and gold uniform, with catcher Austin Cooper fighting back tears trying to describe what it means to him.
But before Thomson tries to move on and set its sights on a third consecutive state semifinal appearance, it needs to name a head coach.
Osborn and the players don't think there should be much of a debate, as Osborn supports assistant coach Aaron Hall for the gig.
"I think he'll do a good job," Osborn said.
"I think he deserves it. He's put in the work, knows the kids, knows the program. I don't think I can find anybody better than him."