The game was supposed to be over. With three outs remaining, the Goodlettsville (Tenn.) Little League All-Stars were on the verge of a trip to the championship game of the Little League World Series. They had seen a single player set a single-game record, and with a 15-5 lead, the youngsters from Tennessee should have been celebrating within a few minutes.
Instead, that celebration was delayed for a full inning after one of the most memorable comebacks in recent baseball history at any level. That comeback in the bottom of the sixth inning, by the Petaluma (Calif.) Little League All-Stars, forced a seventh inning, in which the Tennessee squad exploded for nine runs of its own, taking a 24-15 lead that gave way to an eventual 24-16 victory and a berth alongside the team from Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday.
Tennessee never would have been in position to win the game if it hadn't been for a record-setting day from young slugger Lorenzo Butler. The Southeastern star tied a Little League World Series record with three home runs in a single game, and set a single-game record with nine RBIs. All three homers accounted for three runs, with all nine RBIs coming during the regulation six innings. Butler earned a walk and eventually scoring in his team's seventh-inning explosion, finishing a perfect 3 for 3 with his record 9 RBIs.
Butler's performance was so remarkable that he was briefly even a king of Twitter. According to the Associated Press, Butler's name was a trending topic on the social media network at one point during the game.
In the end, Goodlettsville would need every single one of those runs to earn a spot in the final, thanks to one of the most improbable comebacks imaginable. The Petaluma squad was down 10 runs entering the sixth inning, and still trailed by four runs with two outs. Still, the Petaluma youngsters found a way to even the game, using a Bradley Smith RBI double, two-run homer from Kempton Brandis and a solo shot from Hance Smith to tie the game at 15.
At the time, the momentum could not have been more firmly in Petaluma's favor, but Goodlettsville would waste no time in snatching it back in the seventh, scoring nine runs with only two (the final two, on a shot by Jayson Brown) coming on a home run.
The loss ended a magical run for Petaluma which began in controversy and ended just short of the championship game thanks to the squad's remarkable comeback. The team will play one final game in the tournament's consolation game on Sunday.
In fairness, Butler's remarkable day should have been the story in and of itself. Instead, it will remain just part of an amazing day in Williamsport which was an inspiring manifestation of everything that is best about the tenacity of young American athletes.