Little League World Series 2012: Tennessee outlasts California 24-16 in classic

Will face Japan on Sunday

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SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Tennessee players threw their gloves in the air as they converged near third base before falling to the ground with big smiles.

The exhaustive 24-16 victory Saturday over Petaluma, Calif., will be remembered back home for a while — and not just because it earned Goodlettsville’s favorite sons a berth in the Little League World Series title game.

Brock Myers hit a tie-breaking double, and Tennessee, gave up a 10-run lead in the bottom of the sixth before scoring nine in the seventh in a 24-16 victory Saturday over Petaluma, Calif., for the U.S. crown.

“I can’t believe it,” Tennessee manager Joey Hale said. “I tell people this is like Christmas on steroids and I’m having a blast.”

Tennessee will face Tokyo on Sunday after Japan beat Aguadulce, Panama, 10-2 in the international final.

Only California’s 10-run comeback to send the game into extra innings tied at 15 could overshadow Tennessee slugger Lorenzo Butler’s extraordinary day at the plate. Butler set a single-game record with nine RBIs, and tied a record with three homers to lead Tennessee.

Tennessee finally held on in the bottom of the seventh.

They might have lost, but the California boys have nothing to be ashamed about — especially not after its improbable rally.

Pitching aside, they took part in a Little League classic.

The teams combined for 40 runs — another World Series record — in a game that lasted more than three hours.

Cole Tomei had a two-run double in the sixth, and Hance Smith’s solo shot with two outs tied the game at 15.

“The message will be you never gave up,” said Hance’s father, California manager Eric Smith. “All we’ve asked of them all year was their best effort. I never saw them quit and I never saw them think they were out of it.”

Luke Brown’s strikeout to end the game set off a wild celebration on the field. Tennessee ended up near their dugout in front of third, giddy with exhaustion before they had to get up for the customary postgame handshakes.

“I finally get to rest,” Tennessee catcher Cole Carter. “My legs were killing me after catching seven innings.”

The U.S. title game looked as though it might also be a blowout with Tennessee leading 15-5 in the sixth.

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