The game ended three hours earlier and the stadium lights were off, but the scoreboard remained on.
It was as Little League itself did not believe what had just happened. I could not believe it either. And I had just watched all 329 pitches over that wild 3-hour, 19-minute stretch.
The scoreboard read: Southeast 24, West 16. Petaluma, Calif., scored 10 sixth-inning runs to tie it at 15-all before Goodlettsville, Tenn., scored nine in the seventh. The teams combined for 22 runs in 1 1/2 innings alone and combined for 35 hits. But the scoreboard only can tell so much.
Considering Saturday's game was the U.S. championship, it was the most exciting Little League Baseball game ever played. And what made it so great, so entertaining, went beyond the numbers. This time it truly was all about the kids.
"I don't think I've ever seen a game like this,coming back from 10 runs and then giving up nine," West Region champ Petaluma, Calif., manager Eric Smith said. "I've never seen that. Usually, it's mistakes and walks in a comeback, like in the regular season, but this wasn't like that. Both teams just hit the ball."
They hit it like no other teams in a single Little League World Series game. Southeast champ Goodlettsville and California shattered the previous record for combined runs in a game by 11. Throw in Lorenzo Butler hitting three home runs and driving in a Series-record nine runs on three consecutive three-run home runs and this game was epic.
"We just went through a roller coaster. That's two days in a row," Tennessee manager Joey Hale said. "We went to HersheyPark (Friday) and then I come here for this. It's unbelievable, that's all I can say."
I had already started writing my story in the top of the sixth inning, centering it around Goodlettsville becoming the first team in state history to reach the world championship and Butler's brilliance.
Then Bradley Smith hit a leadoff single. Then Hance Smith singled. Then Logan Douglas singled ... the hits just kept coming. By the time an out was recorded California trailed 15-10. It was 15-11 with two outs and finally it seemed as if California might have run out of steam.
Instead, Smith hit a RBI double before Kempton Brandis was down to his team's last strike and crushed a two-run home run. One batter later, Hance Smith was down to his last strike before launching a game-tying home run. He looked like an airplane circling the bases with both arms spread wide. Just about everyone not wearing a California jersey appeared stunned, realizing California had just done what seemed impossible and erased a 10-run deficit.
Yet, Tennessee remained unfazed. Most Little League teams that were three outs from winning a national championship before squandering a 10-run, sixth-inning lead would have melted down. Some players would be crying, others might lose their tempers and others might give up.
Not this team.
Pitcher Luke Brown maintained his composure following the consecutive home runs. He simply kept doing his best and ended the inning. Six straight batters then reached base and Jayson Brown capped the stunning, nine-run rally with a two-run home run. As quick as that 10-run lead was lost, Tennessee nearly gained it all back.
"We (coaches) try not to get too excited because if you get too excited they (players) tend to feed off that and sense that your nervous and then that makes them nervous, so we try to just keep it low key," Hale said. "Just get up there and hit the ball and see what happens. That's been our approach the whole time. Just hit it hard and see what happens. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be."
Tennessee earned the U.S. title, but both teams proved themselves champions. This was their moment together and they owned it. Together, they played a game that the 24,100 fans who attended it and the millions more who watched on television will never forget.
Little League is not just about the games, but also about teaching and learning. All those who played Saturday provided a lesson in toughness and resiliency. All those who played could shine for years to come in whatever they do if they maintain that determined attitude.
The problem for me now is that future games will be a letdown. I have covered the Little League World Series for 13 years and written hundreds of stories, covered hundreds of games. The thing is, I could cover the Series for 50 more years and never see a game like this again.
This was as good as it gets.
Masse is a Sun-Gazette sports writer and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.