Sun Aug 28 08:40pm EDT
The boys from Huntington Beach, Calif., brought the Little League World Series championship trophy back to the U.S.A. after a year's absence.
A bases-loaded single by Nick Pratto with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning drove in the tie-breaking run, sending the Southern California boys to a 2-1 victory against Hamamatsu City, Japan, on Sunday afternoon.
[Related: World Series photo gallery]
As if Pratto weren't feeling enough pressure to win the game, the crowd added another layer by chanting, "USA! USA!" as he stepped to bat.
"I was just thinking. 'Oh, God, Oh, God,' before I was getting in the box," the 12-year-old Pratto said. "But once I got into the box, I calmed myself by telling myself to just look for a good pitch."
Like a mini-professional would. Pratto (pictured on the left, with Braydon Salzman on the right) came through with a line drive to center after committing a throwing error earlier that led to Japan scoring its run. He also had the key hit at regionals that sent the U.S. team to South Williamsport, Pa., for the finals.
Pratt, who told EPSN he was experiencing "the greatest moment" of his young life in a postgame interview, said he would remember one instance in particular:
"Oh, that hit. That hit felt good coming off the bat. I just ... I knew it was over."
The kid gets the game-winning hit, and comes through with a major league soundbite.
The U.S. scored its other run on a solo home run by Hagen Danner — who might have the coolest name of any kid on the planet. And the Americans got another strong pitching performance by Salzman, who pitched a complete-game three-hitter. You might remember him as the kid whose cap — notably the bill — saved him from taking a line drive off his head earlier in the tournament. (Salzman also was pictured up top draped in the flag.)
The international tournament, for kids aged 11-13, started with 7,000 teams and took 45 days. The U.S. has won six of the past seven LLWS championships, with Japan winning the exception a year ago.
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