It's raining in South Williamsport at 11 a.m.on Aug. 25.
The blankets are already set out on the hill for tonight's game, protecting the grass from the water. The cardboard sleds are steadily coming down the hill, full of muddy participants.
The Billings team is somewhat of an anomaly here, the article in the local newspaper had their victory buried on page 4; even the West team has front page coverage in their loss.
While wearing a Montana District 1 Little League shirt this morning and during daily rounds to the local coffee shops in Williamsport, the talk was the defeat of the Southern California team by Big Sky Little League. Billings now appears to becoming the second favorite of the people of Williamsport, just 'slightly' behind the local Keystone League.
Just before the game, Jim Gerstenslager, the Little League Western Regional Administrator, was asked who he hoped would win. Since he represents both the West and the Northwest, he skillfully avoided the question. California had generally been considered the best American team here, outscoring their two opponents 21-0.
With only 11,950 fans on hand last night, the atmosphere was relatively serene in contrast to the previous 3 nights. The fan base was evenly split between Billings and Huntington Beach. If you were randomly seated on the first base side, you cheered for Billings. By the end of the game, both sides were cheering for all players, regardless of affiliation.
This was one of those games where by the time the 2nd inning was over, you knew it would be special. Both pitchers had great control; strike-outs were numerous and defensive plays were amazing.
The game was garnished with spectacular defensive plays by both teams, including potentially a game saving, third out, put out at home on a passed ball between Andy Maehl and Cole McKenzie. Patrick Zimmer's catch at third base to save a double along with Connor Kieckbusch's knock down and force out at second base in the 7th.
Cole pitched 5 and 2/3rd scoreless innings, and gave up only 3 hits, 3 base on balls and 4 strike-outs. Simply a superb performance, especially considering the offensive capability of the California team.
Sean Jones, once again, was called upon to complete the game with two outs in the top of the 6th inning. He walked two batters and hit a batter to load the bases. A agonizing long fly ball was caught by Ben Askelson in left field to end the inning.
The seventh inning started with a walk given up by Sean, followed by two outs via fielder choice and a strike-out.
In the bottom of the 7th inning, with one strike, did I mention the gigantic long home run hit 255 feet over the left field fence by Ben Askelson?
Sean Jones is 13 years old; he has been asked to either win or save the last four games in front of a national television audience, simply amazing.
Television could not have done this game justice, it was best seen in person.
The sun has now come out, the field has been prepared, and we are ready to start game 25: Japan versus Venezuela.