Even though the sun was visible across the Potomac as it set behind National Airport, a drenching rain was falling Friday night upon Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, where the Waldorf Mets and Hughesville Reds were trying desperately to finish the final game of the Lou Zwick Memorial Tournament.
After an hour-long rain delay, some of the same kids who led the Hughesville all-star team to the Little League East Regional Tournament in Connecticut last season led the Reds to a 5-3 win over Waldorf. And, believe it or not, there is a good possibility that people involved with Friday's game will remember more about the specifics of the rain delay than about the game itself.
When the skies above Bolling opened up in the top of the fifth, soaking the all-dirt infield, the game already was official: Hughesville led, 4-3, and the requisite four innings had been played.
But the game was to decide the team championship for District 7 -- which covers Prince George's, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties, as well as Bolling Air Force Base -- and no one seemed to want to quit.
Thus, the next 60 minutes were an adventure. Players, coaches and parents seemed to argue over every sound. Was it thunder, or just a plane taking off? Was it lightning or just a flashbulb? It was a little of both, but each side had its own opinion. Both teams had every coach turning over the field with sticks, shovels and even entire bleacher seats trying to get the field playable for the final two innings.
"I felt like a caveman out there, sweeping the water out of those puddles," said Waldorf Coach Tim Hoepfl. "[Hughesville] has a classy ballclub, but I think they escaped because of the rain."
The field was plenty playable after 15 minutes of work, but Little League rules state that players have to wait 20 minutes after the last lightning strike before they take the field, and the lightning kept coming.
While the adults worked during the rain delay, the kids played.
Hoepfl's son, Matthew, whose friends call him "Waldo" because of the big blue goggles he wears while catching, tried to find some good music on the dugout stereo.
As Hoepfl and his Mets teammates sang and danced to "Free Your Mind" by the group En Vogue, the Reds were a little more disciplined in the opposing dugout.
"Probably if we had a radio we would have played it too," said Hughesville Coach Joe Therres. "Sometimes you just have to sit back and let kids do what kids do."
Even at age 12, Matthew Hoepfl knew plenty well that the game was official after four innings and started his own chant in the dugout. "Rain, rain, go away, we won't let it end this way," he cheered with his teammates.
The Mets also had discussions about blues music and the Village People before the umpiring crew made them move to their cars because of the lightning.
With his brim tilted toward the sky and an obvious look of frustration on his face, Tim Hoepfl listened as tournament director Colleen Alexander discussed the possibility of ending the game. She talked about the lightning and how the base swimming pool already had been closed for the night.
"This isn't a swimming pool, this is a championship game," Hoepfl said afterward. "If we had to flip that whole field by hand, we were going to do it."
Home plate umpire Meryl Stueve, who works maintenance on the base, sat with first base umpire John Walton under a tent during the rain delay, marveling at how the base helicopter pilots can fly in bad weather. The other two umpires, Ed Jones and Laphelle Schexnayder, drove off to get something to eat.
When the game finally resumed, Hughesville picked up where it had left off.
Pitcher Justin Frohlich, who tied the game at two in the third inning with a two-run homer, shut down the Mets' offense. The game ended on a double play ball to the second baseman, and all the Reds' players threw their gloves into the heavy, humid night air.
"I'm glad it didn't end [after the fourth]. You hate to win something like that with a rain delay," Therres said. "If you're going to win a championship, you'd like to win it on the field."
CAPTION: Eric Estevez of the Waldorf Mets delivers a pitch against the Hughesville Reds during the second inning Friday evening at Bolling Air Force Base. The teams rode out an hour-long rain delay after four innings of play before the Reds went on to a 5-3 victory. At right, Hughesville players line up during the national anthem. They are, from left, Nick Glynn, Graym Kasko, Keith Therres and Paul Munch.