Though they were not victorious in Sunday's Little League World Series title game, the Red Land Little League Team received a hero's welcome from fans in Lewisberry, Pa., Sunday night.
They lined the streets, cheered and waved signs for a team that still owns the bragging rights to the title "United States champions," which they won on Saturday. But the next day, Red Land came up short in a tension-filled Little League World Series title game — jumping out to an eight-run lead but ultimately losing 18-11 to Japan.
Still, fans are proud of the team that put their town, about two hours west of Philadelphia, on the map.
The Associated Press reports the team was escorted by police, firefighters and EMS crews:
" 'This is the biggest thing that has happened in our little town,' 2011 Red Land High School graduate Chelsea Covington of New Cumberland told The Patriot-News earlier in the day. 'We were a little town that nobody even knew existed. Everybody around the world knows where we are now. It's crazy.' "
For the third time in the span of four years, Japan was crowned champion.
After jumping to a two-run lead in its first at-bat, Tokyo's Kitasuna Little League soon found itself on the wrong end of a 10-2 deficit. That was just in the first inning. It looked like Red Land was well on its way to bringing home the title.
But then the big sticks of Japan awoke. By the end of the third inning, the game was close — with Japan up 13-11. The game went scoreless in the fourth and fifth innings. Then Japan dashed any hope of an American comeback, adding five late runs.
Tim Lambert of member station WITF reports on Morning Edition:
"As Tokyo kept piling up the runs, a soft-throwing Japanese lefthander was silencing the Red Land bats. Pitcher Nobuyuki Kawashima lived in San Diego for four years and speaks fluent English. His manager brought him in to start the second inning.
"Kawashima said, 'He told me before the game, if the fastball doesn't work too well on them, he would go with me who has more of a breaking ball kind of type.' "
As ESPN reports:
"The teams broke the previous Little League record of 23 combined runs in a championship game — a mark that had stood since 1947. Pennsylvania's 10-run first inning also was a record, as was the teams' combined 30 hits. The eight-run deficit was the largest overcome in any Little League World Series game.
"Japan had not won a game by more than two runs all tournament and had won its past two in the team's final at-bat."