It took seven games, but the Little League World Series field finally produced a thrilling game.
And considering it was the Southeast vs. the West, it was hardly surprising.
Jayson Brown hit a big two-out, two-strike, sixth-inning triple that broke a tie before Brock Myers followed with a two-run home run as Goodlettsville, Tenn., defeated Petaluma, Calif., 9-6, Sunday at Lamade Stadium in a winners' bracket game.
"There's something about the West," Tennessee manager Joey Hale said. "At this level you have to do the best you can on every play because that was a great team and we needed every one of those runs."
Tennessee earned a spot in Wednesday's winners' bracket final and is one win from reaching the U.S. championship. California has to regroup quickly as it plays New Jersey at 4 p.m. today.
"We're all right. We'll be fine," California manager Eric Smith said. "We're 20-3 so I just told them to relax. "You can't let this game affect (today's) game. You played a great game so go out and play a good game (Monday)."
Sunday produced a back and forth game in which Tennessee led early before California answered and took a 3-2 lead. The Southeast champions went up again 5-3, but Kempton Brandis and Porter Slate hit home runs in the fourth and fifth innings to tie it at 5-5.
That set the stage for a dramatic sixth inning rally that Andrew Snyder ignited with a leadoff walk. Jonathan Seals followed with a single before a strikeout was recorded for the second out.
"I got two strikes and I went into protection mode and was just trying to foul off pitches," Seals said. "Then I got the one I wanted and just hit it."
Brown missed on two pitches and was down to his last strike, but did a great piece of hitting. He reached out on an outside pitch and took it opposite way, smashing it down the right-field line for a two-run triple.
"It was pretty awesome," Brown said. "He had thrown a lot of fastballs and then he threw a curveball low so I was thinking the fastball was coming and I just hit it to right field.
California hit four home runs yesterday so no lead appeared safe. That was why what Myers did next was so huge. Like Brown, Myers was down to his last strike and like Brown, Myers delivered in the clutch.
The starting pitcher crushed his second series home run to left field and gave Tennessee two huge insurance runs and a 9-5 lead.
"I knew Brock would come through," Brown said.
"Those were two big runs," Hale said. "They made me feel good."
Jacob Rucker went 3 for 3 with two doubles and scored three runs. He also earned the win in relief, working out of a second and third, two-out jam in the fifth in which he stranded the go-ahead runners.
Rucker also came through in the sixth inning, remaining unfazed after Cole Tomei hit a two-out home run and Slate walked. The right-hander induced a game-ending groundout and Tennessee was winners' bracket final-bound.
California hit four home runs but all were solo shots. Still, the West champions demonstrated again how powerful their offense can be as Bradley Smith also went deep for a second straight game.
Tennessee took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, taking advantage of several passed balls after Rucker led off with a single and Brown reached on a third-strike pitch in the dirt. California answered in the bottom half, scoring three times and taking the lead. Smith, 6 for 7 in two games, put the West champions ahead with a home run to left field.
Tennessee regained the lead in the second inning when Seals hit an infield single and pinch-runner Blake Osborne came home on Rucker's RBI double. Luke Brown then hit a two-out RBI single, making it 4-3.
Osborne collided with California catcher Austin Paretti, but obstruction was called and Tennessee had its tying run. Two innings later, it had a two-run lead when Rucker doubled, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Jayson Brown's grounder to second.
California erased that deficit but the sixth-inning one proved too much.
"We have a bunch of comeback wins so I thought we could get four (runs in the sixth)," Smith said. "It was a little tougher with two outs, though."