When Lauren Sanata of the McLean All-Stars grounded into the last out in the Little League Softball World Series final played in Portland, Ore., the 12-year-old -- and the team's fans watching the live telecast at home -- hung their heads only for a moment.
Then they turned to celebrating the accomplishments of their hometown team, which advanced deeper into the 30-year-old tournament than any other from Virginia or the Washington region.
Despite the final score of 18-5, families and friends watching the game on television at Rocco's Italian restaurant in McLean said the team of 14 girls deserved praise for carrying the region's hopes for a World Series title on their petite shoulders.
The players fell to an aggressive base-running team from Waco, Tex., but their friends back home remained upbeat despite the loss. When the game ended, the McLean girls got a standing ovation at Rocco's.
"They've still done something that no other team in the state of Virginia has ever done," said Chris Sowick, an organizer of the McLean Little League. He added that the community would hold a big celebration for the girls when they arrive at Reagan National Airport tonight.
No team from Washington had ever gone to the Little League Softball World Series. The tournament's final was televised live from Alpenrose Field in Portland on ESPN.
"We will be celebrating . . . because, shoot, they got this far, you know, they are Number 2 in the country," Claudia Engel said by cell phone from Portland, where she watched her daughter, Adrianne, a catcher.
"And that's something else. That's basically what we told the girls: Win or lose, you are still winners," Engel said.
The tournament seemed to have a bonding effect on residents of McLean and on the scores of parents who flew to Portland for the game, several parents said. Some could hardly believe that it was their hometown team playing on television.
Rocco's tiny restaurant was packed with people shouting such chants as "Here we go, McLean, here we go," as the girls came up to bat. When the team scored, friends at the restaurant jumped up and down. Beers and Cokes spilled. Neighbors hugged and lifted their hands in joy.
"It's really bringing everyone together," said Kristine Evans, who came to Rocco's to watch the game. Her elder daughter played for the same team 13 years ago, she said.
At the beginning of the televised game, family and friends squealed as the McLean girls were introduced one by one.
"It's just great," said Jamie Loving, wife of James Loving, head coach of the McLean All-Stars. "It just makes me think about how hard they worked. I can't believe it."
Moments later, the television cut to her husband, and she cheered. With one hand, she pumped her fist at the screen. With the other hand, she cradled her 17-month-old daughter, Adelaide.
Several of the viewers at Rocco's described the contest as a David-and-Goliath match. The Waco team has dominated the sport, winning 11 of the past 13 Little League Softball World Series titles, including last night's. So when the McLean girls tied the game by scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning, the cheers at Rocco's turned ear-piercing.
But the game began to turn when McLean surrendered five runs on several poorly fielded balls in the second inning, and the girls struggled to catch up.
"It looks like they have the Little League World Series jitters," Sowick said.
It was unlike the previous performances by the team, which had been winning its World Series games handily. The tournament consists of the 10 top teams from around the world. The McLean team, which had lost only one game this season, had beaten World Series teams from across the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Europe and Puerto Rico.
Still, McLean was viewed as the underdog in the final.
None of the team's players had been on television before, and one had never flown on an airplane before the tournament began last week.
Now, with one of the most significant experiences of their lives to look back on, the girls head home to enjoy the accolades waiting for them in Washington. McLean Little League organizers said they will have a picnic for the girls at 5 p.m. Sunday at McLean Little League Park.
Kathie Loving, mother of the coach, said she was too nervous to stay at Rocco's and left halfway through the game to watch it at home. She said the final would be the last game coached by her husband, who wants to spend more time with his baby daughter. He has coached in the McLean Little League for 14 years.
"I know he'll be somewhat disappointed but proud of how they played," she said. "I would like to have him win, because that's his dream. But win or lose, they've played well this year."
Staff writer Clarence Williams contributed to this report.