McLean's 11- and 12-year-old Little League World Series softball team finally ran out of surprises Thursday night in the championship game. Against the Midway Little League team from Waco, Tex., the biggest powerhouse this event has known, McLean lost, 18-5.
There were tears -- and consolation -- aplenty for McLean at Alpenrose Stadium. Waco had outscored opponents 55-3 in this tournament, recording three shutouts with two no-hitters. The title was the team's 11th in 13 years.
McLean, meantime, representing the South Region, needed to win a so-called "if" game in the state tournament, then had to go to extra innings for a win at the World Series on its way to the final.
In the championship, McLean couldn't overcome Waco's bunt-and-gun offense.
"We hoped we'd get this far, and we had high expectations for ourselves," McLean Manager Jamie Loving said, adding that while few would predict the Virginia team would be in the final against the powerhouse from Texas, "that's the game people want to see."
Even ESPN seemed to work against McLean, delaying its softball coverage -- and the first pitch -- to follow Tiger Woods's final holes at the NEC Invitational.
But McLean pitcher Lauren Sanata opened the top of the first by striking out Waco shortstop Makenzie Robertson on three pitches.
"That felt good," she said. Visibly upset after the loss, she still managed to put the experience in perspective. "To get here, it felt really good, but I felt we had a chance all along,"
Sanata said, "I'll be happy after today, because we got this far."
The Texas team, in its 13th consecutive World Series, went on to score two runs, but Sanata came back in the bottom half of the first with an RBI double that scored Michelle Tilson for McLean's first run. Sanata later scored to tie the game.
In the second, Midway's first four batters reached, and five out of the first six that came to the plate scored. Midway parlayed bunts and steals into a 7-2 lead before McLean came to bat again. The Texas team added a run in the third, three runs in the fifth and burst out for seven runs in the sixth.
"Obviously, this game got out of hand, but Waco hasn't given up five runs yet in this tournament," Loving said.