In the cold light of dawn, Winnipeg Goldeyes manager Rick Forney still aches when he thinks of the way his baseball team finished the 2011 season.

Losing in the bottom of the ninth inning in the final game of a five-game series has gnawed at him for more than a month.

But now that it’s October and he’s exercised the option on 18 players he wants to keep in the fold for next season, Forney can sit back and look objectively at what happened in 2011.

It doesn’t hurt any less, but at least he’s capable of running the heartbreaking finish through his mind.

“It’s easier to handle now that it all took place a month ago,” said Forney on Wednesday. “We had such a good year. Price (Kendall) was rookie of the year, Ace (Walker) broke the record for career wins, we won 60 games, it was just so successful, and then end it in St. Paul like we did was really hard to take.

“But as I look back on it, we played five very close games with a good ball club. All the games in St. Paul were settled late, by a run or two, and in the end we just didn’t get the hits when we needed them. That just about summed it up.”

As he looks back it’s clear to him that there isn’t anything he would have done differently.

“There is nothing I could have done,” he said. “Our starters were very good and our bullpen was outstanding. They barely gave up any runs at all with the exception of Game 2 here in Winnipeg. In St. Paul, they were very good. We didn’t get timely hits and whenever we lost games during the year that was, quite often one of the problems. But in fairness to our hitters, St. Paul played exceptional defensive baseball. They had a number of players make great diving catches against us and their infield played better against us in that series than they’d played all year. In tight, one run ballgames, defense is so important.”

Now that Forney has claimed an 18-player nucleus for the 2012 season, he knows that not all 18 will be back. However, he’ll admit that if he could bring back the same team, he’d do it in a heartbeat.

“In a perfect world, I’d like to have everybody back from last season,” Forney said. “But that’s just not realistic.

“I don’t have a master plan at this stage for what I want to do because I want to see who wants to come back, who is able to come back and in some cases, who can afford to come back.

“I believe we want to keep the same type of team together for next year. I want to be as athletic as we were last year. I want guys who can play two or three positions and can run as well as hit for some power. And I want a deep pitching staff again. But we’re going to have to wait to see what we have going forward.”

Forney knows that some players will change classification next year. He knows some players will want to move on to organized baseball if they get the chance in the off-season. And he also knows some players will not be able to play for the amount of money that managers can pay in the American Association and those players may choose to retire.

However, he also believes a good nucleus of players from this past season will be willing to return.

“I’ll start making the calls to my guys at the end of November and early December,” Forney said. “Always keep in mind, with classification changes some guys might not be able to come back. I need four rookies and I’m limited to the number of veterans and LS-4s I can have on the roster.

“And I’m already getting calls from all over independent baseball. There are a lot of managers out there who want to make deals, who want to move some of their guys and I have to admit there are some guys I might like to bring to Winnipeg next year. So we’ll wait and see for the next few months and then start figuring out where guys are at in November.”