Flecks of blood stained the front of Terry Bradley's green and yellow uniform. His upper lip was swollen and his nose was sore.
The shaggy-haired third baseman had taken a bad hop in the face during warm-ups. So instead of joining batting practice, Bradley sat on the sidelines, soothing his wounds with an ice pack.
But moments before the championship Little League game, the .500 hitter shrugged off his injuries and trotted out to third base.
Bradley's determination paid off.
In the bottom of the last inning, with the score tied and a runner on first, Bradley dug his right hell into the batter's box and slammed a game-winning triple toward the 330 marker in left field.
It was a sweet victory for the Richmond Huguentos. As the last run came in, the Huguenots whooped and hollered all the way from home plate to the dugout.
But not Bradley. Said in tight-lipped slugger, "I've hit game-winners before."
Over in the Woodlawn dugout, there was nothing but silence.
It was a steamy 93 degrees as the Woodlawn All Stars and the Richmond Huguenots trailed onto John McNaughton Memorial Field near Fort Belvoir last week. It was game of the year -- the winner would take home the state crown in the 13-year-old division of the Virginia Little League.
On the sidelines, Woodlawn Pitcher Kevin Wilson was warming up.
"His best pitch is his curved ball," said Wilson's coach Bill Entwisle.
In the stands, a dozen wet-headed kids wandered in from a local pool. Flirtatious teen-age boys and girls sat apart from their parents.
The buzz of the crowd was nearly lost in the noise of bulldozers clearing a piece of land behind the centerfield fence.
But finally the national anthem came over the loudspeakers; the groan of the bulldozers stopped, and the umpire shouted: "Play ball!"
Despite an occasional base runner, the early action was as slow as the afternoon breeze.
"This is a lousy time to have a game," someone said shortly after the 2 p.m. opening. "Nobody's off work."
Seven-year-old Bryan Jefferson strolled aimlessly through the crowd. His floppy straw hat and sunglesses covered half of his face. Ida Reep sat quietly under an umbrella. At her side, Stu Garret sipped ice water from an oversized mug.
Richmond southpaw, John Bays, a 6-foot-4, 140 pounder, opened the game by dropping lazy curve balls past a succession of Woodlawn batters.
By the top of the fifth, with the score still 0-0, Bays began having control problems.
The first man to the plate in the fifth, Woodlawn's pudgy rightfielder Darrin Crudup, nicknamed Buddha by his teammates, walked.
Then Woodlawn centerfield John Castillo singled. Crudup rounded second and decided to slide into third. Bradley put the tag on him and the ball dribbled out of his mit. But the umpire didn't see the bobbled ball, and Crudup was out.
The next batter, third baseman Phil Cotter, his a fly to left for the second out. With two outs, Bays walked left-fielder David Slack. Robbie Williams, the Woodlawn shortstop, smacked a bouncing ball down the right field line. It bounced off the first baseman's glove and hit the chalk.
"Fair ball" yelled the fans.
"Four ball," intoned first base umpire Doug Sanders, ending the period of grace between the fans and the umpire.
Wanda Slack, a Woodlawn partisan, turned to Jim Harnden, a Mount Vernon ump, and snapped, "I thought you said these guys were the best." Several fans were less polite.
Back at the plate, Williams went down swinging. The score was still 0-0.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Huguenots exploded for four runs on two walks, two hits and an error.
With one out and runners on first and second, Richmond's Jeffrey White looped a routine fly to left. Woodlawn's Slack lost the ball on the filmy horizon and Richmond scored two runs. Michael Stallings singled to bring in White. The fourth run came on an error by Slack.
Woodlawn cut the lead to three in the top of the sixth on a walk, a stolen base and a Chris Hardeman single. A dejected, but undaunted, Woodlawn trailed 4-1.
The Huguenots failed to score in the bottom of the sixth, but by then some fans had given up on the home team and left the stadium.But not Woodlawn.
The top of the seventh:
John Castillo grounded out to start off the final inning. Phil Cotter doubled to right. Pinch hitter Brian Johnson, who is barely big enough to keep his number on his back, bunted and beat the throw to first by a shoelace. Robin Williams drove a fast ball toward center. Michael Stallings started in, but recovered in time to make a leaping catch that saved two runs.
Then Kevin Wilson collected two RBIs with a double to left. He stole third and headed home on a passed ball. Dust flew. Umpire Wayne Starliper's arms streteched out parallel to the ground. Safe! Tie game: 4-to-4.
With two runners on base, Steve Palmisano was out on a pop up to short and Woodlawn was praying for extra innings.
The bottom of the seventh for Richmond: A man on first and one out.
Then came Bradley and the long drive to left field that ended Woodlawn's prayers.
"He's tough mean kid," said Bradley's coach, Frank Carpin.
The final score: Huguents, 5; Woodlawn, 4.
After the game, Woodlawn's Bill Entwisle issued the traditional statement by a losing coach. "I had the better team," he said.
Nearly, Woodlawn centerfielder John Castillo walked off the field with David Slack's arm around his shoulders.
Castillo's glove lingered at his side, held limply by one finger. A tear trickled down his dusty cheek:
"I guess I wanted it too much."