PITTSFIELD - It could have been a very bittersweet moment, but that simply isn't the Berkshire Force 16-U softball team's style.
Force coach Jim Clary was saluting his four captains, just after their season - and for a couple of them, their Force careers - ended Monday at the Babe Ruth Softball 16-U World Series.
"You groomed them for next year," Clary said of his captains' effect on the younger Force players.
"I'm ready. Let's start now," pitcher Julia Murphy interjected.
Murphy and the prospective 2015 Force players won't begin fall-ball preparations for a couple of weeks, of course. They could use the rest, too - Berkshire played 10 games in 72 hours, culminating in Monday afternoon's 9-3 loss to Rochester, N.H., in the consolation Commissioner's Cup final.
"They are physically exhausted," Clary said. "They kept their intensity up; physically, they just ran out of gas. I couldn't have asked for more out of any of them."
The Force had to win twice on Monday morning just to reach the final in the Commissioner's Cup tournament. They won both games by the 10-run mercy rule.
They had to play many of their weekend games without two players, as both Mir and Rachel Voller suffered left-knee injuries during the Series. Neither played Sunday or Monday.
Over a six-day, 14-game schedule, the Force went 9-5. That includes wins over the Massachusetts state champions, and the champions of the Southwest, Pacific Northwest and Middle Atlantic regions.
For those players who will return to the 2015 squad, and try to qualify for the program's third consecutive World Series - which would be the sixth since Pittsfield first hosted the tournament in 2008 - the games proved to be valuable experience.
Carly Decker knows just how valuable that experience can be. The recent Taconic High School graduate pitched for the Force in the 2013 Series in Wilson County, N.C., and was on hand for many of the Force's games this year.
All three pitchers on the Force staff - Julia Murphy of St. Joseph High School, Emily Koldys of Pittsfield and Ashley Keegan of Taconic - will likely be their respective high schools' starting pitchers in the spring of 2015. Decker believes they'll all benefit from the innings they saw during the Series.
"Now [Murphy] knows what to expect, too," Decker said after Murphy took the loss in the Commissioner's Cup final. "She got to go up against tough competition, which will help her in high school. [The 2013 Series] helped me in high school this year. I was a smarter pitcher, and she'll definitely be a smarter pitcher."
The end was tough to take for outfielder and co-captain Jill Campbell, but she admitted the memories would last longer than one inning, game or series. She played in two World Series for the Force, and has been in the program for five years. Campbell said that time was the highlight of her athletic career.
"It gets you through the school year," she said. "The Force was always the No. 1 thing for your whole summer. I haven't gone on my own vacation with my family for the past few years because of this. You do it because you love it."