TUNKHANNOCK — While many family and friends made the 2,761-mile trek from Tunkhannock to Portland, Oregon, to watch their hometown team in the Little League Softball World Series championship, the fans who couldn’t make it had to settle for the next best thing.
Residents flocked to the Dietrich Theater for a viewing party Wednesday night to watch the Tunkhannock girls softball team take on Wheelersburg, Ohio. (The game was broadcast live on ESPN.)
But before people could get inside and take their seat in front of the theater’s big screen, they had to wait — and then wait some more.
A long line of supporters had formed outside the Dietrich and onto the sidewalk of Tioga Street.
When the antsy fans finally got in their seats with popcorn in hand, they were treated to the remaining innings of the Phillies-Red Sox game.
As the crowd’s anticipation grew, chants of “I Believe That We Will Win” and “Tunkhannock Tigers” broke out.
“This whole run has been so amazing,” said Cale Newswanger, a board member for the Tunkhannock Little League. “These girls have been working hard for years and they have represented this small town greatly.”
All 215 seats in the historic theater were filled for the championship game, so employees encouraged kids to sit on the floor to cheer on their local favorites.
The Dietrich was almost at capacity Tuesday night when Tunkhannock defeated Lake Oswego, Oregon, in the semi-finals, according to Newswanger.
“This is an amazing experience that not only the girls will remember but everyone from Tunkhannock,” he said.
Finally, when the game started, the crowd grew louder and louder as each pitch was delivered. People were screaming, jumping, high-fiving and just generally excited for every aspect of the game.
No one in the crowd was more excited than Randy Robinson, the grandfather of Tunkhannock’s Piper Robinson.
“I’m so proud of my granddaughter and her teammates,” said Robinson, 63, of Tunkhannock. “She brought a tear to my eye at the beginning of the tournament and she will bring a tear to my eye tonight no matter the outcome.”
Robinson has religiously followed the 13-girl softball team’s journey from the start of the season all the way up to Wednesday night’s championship.
“They have been really fun to watch,” he said. “Each round these girls have gone through, you could see that they were getting better and truly playing as a team.”
In between each inning, the raucous crowd chanted: “Here We Go Tigers, Here We Go!”
Robinson commended the town on embracing the girls’ journey and for helping raise money to allow the girls to travel to Oregon.
“Without the town’s help and local business owners’ help, the team would not have had the finances to travel,” Tunkhannock Little League treasurer Chris DeMarco said.
The Little League has already planned a celebratory parade for Saturday.
“We are just so proud of them no matter the outcome,” DeMarco said. “They have inspired so many people in this town.”
Unfortunately, Tunkhannock’s title dream came up just short. For complete coverage of the game, see page 1B.
Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes