Noriatsu Osaka raised his arms as he rounded second base. His happy Tokyo, Japan, teammates swarmed him at home and celebrated together.
They thought Osaka simply had hit his third home run and padded an already big lead against Goodlettsville, Tenn.
But he had done so much more.
Osaka had just turned the Kitasuna Little League into the world's best Little League Baseball team.
Osaka had a world final game like few others, crushing three home runs while going 4 for 4 with a triple as Japan downed Tennessee, 12-2 in five innings, and captured the world championship.
"Before (Saturday) I hit a home run (against Panama) and my condition got so much better," said Osaka, who became only the second player to ever hit three home runs in a world final. "I'm so happy."
Osaka homered in his final three at-bats and pitcher Kotaro Kiyomiya threw four innings of one-hit baseball as Japan won its second world title in three years and capped an exciting Little League World Series that included a record 76 home runs.
Japan went 5-0 at the Series and outscored its opposition, 35-5. Following the game, Japanese players carried an American flag while taking their victory lap around the field, something Osaka said was a way of giving thanks for allowing them to play in the tournament.
The Kitasuna Little League won its second world championship after manager Yoichi Kubo led it to the 2001 title. He also managed the 2007 team that lost to Warner Robins, Ga., in the championship.
"Of course I was so happy when we got a championship in 2001, but I was so happy I was crying today when this team won the world championship," Kubo said.
Southeast Region champ Goodlettsville, in only its second year of existence, became the first Tennessee team to win a U.S. championship and reach the world final. It achieved that honor Saturday, beating California, 24-16, in a game all those who watched it never will forget.
The memories generated during the run will be the ones this outstanding team always remembers.
Throw in that the Southeast champions competed against a Japan team it was good friends with and there really was no downside to Sunday's game. No wonder both players and manager Joey Hale were all smiles at the post-game press conference.
"It was like a friendly game. It was a lot of fun playing them because they are really nice," said Brock Myers, who homered for a fifth straight game. "Being the second- best team in the world is really good. I'm all right with that."
Tennessee will leave at 6:30 this morning and return to a heroes' welcome. Thursday, the players will be honored at a Vanderbilt football game on the field and that is just the start. The team was the talk of the state and made history while capturing its community's imagination.
"When we get home it's going to be a carnival," Hale said. "We have a long list of things to do so even though the games are over it's not going to end."
As outstanding as Tennessee was all summer, yesterday belonged to Osaka and Japan. The team's lead-off hitter set the tone in the first inning, hitting a triple that sparked a two-run rally and put Japan ahead to stay.
As good as the triple was, it actually was Osaka's worst at-bat of the day. Less than 24 hours after Tennessee's Lorenzo Butler hit three straight three-run home runs, Osaka started his own march toward history an inning later, slamming a one-out home run to left-center field. His next time up, Osaka put Japan up 6-1, hitting a first-pitch, fourth-inning lead-off home run.
"Osaka did a very good job," said Kiyomiya, adding that the Tennessee players were their best friends on the U.S. side. "I thank Osaka for this game."
The versatile 12-year-old, however, saved his best for last.
After Hajime Motegi reached on a third-strike passed ball, Osaka launched his walk-off home run over the center-field fence.
"Our pitching staff was doing really well so I wanted to hit as much as I could," Osaka said. "It was a good day."
Osaka pitched the final inning in relief of Kiyomiya who put an exclamation point on his dominant Series. The 6-foot, 200-pound right-hander went 2 for 3 with a double and allowed only Myers' fourth-inning home run while striking out eight. Kiyomiya threw 3 1-3 innings of no-hit baseball and his double was part of a five-run fourth inning that made it 9-1.
Rintaro Hirano highlighted that game-breaking rally with a home run. Japan hit five home runs and scored at least once in each inning.
Tennessee was as resilient as it was talented and down 5-0, it did not go away. Myers brought the American fans to their feet when he took a full-count Kiyomiya pitch and deposited it over the left-field fence. It was another highlight in a Series full of them for a player who hit over .600 and bashed an American-high five home runs.
"It was crazy. It felt awesome," said Myers, who will play Thursday at wide receiver in Davidson Academy's Middle School football game. "He hung me a curveball."
A day after second baseman Lorenzo Butler hit three, three-run home runs and drove in a Series record nine runs, he ended is summer in a fitting fashion. He homered again.
Butler greeted Osaka in the fifth by launching a home run to right field and making it a 10-2 game.
It feels really good," Butler said. "Those were the best home runs I hit all season."
And the run Tennessee generated was its state's best ever.
"I think they'll be remembered more for (Saturday) night," Hale said. "They showed a lot of heart and character and I definitely could not be any more proud."