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Saying farewell to the dream: Auburn fans endure heartbreaking ending of long journey

Auburn players, including Dillon O
Auburn players, including Dillon O'Grady (9), get ready to take the field for the sixth inning of play on Thursday.
— image credit: Ralph Wilson/for the Auburn Reporter

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Through ups and downs, wins and losses, Auburn fans, players and coaches endured, living a dream most Little League communities can only dream about.

That dream came to a screeching halt Thursday afternoon when the Northwest Region champions suffered a sixth-inning loss to Southwest champion Pearland, Texas.

But the dreamers didn't go quietly, nor did their team.

According to one parent, despite the loss, the dream translates into reality.

“Our players run well, they hit well and they field well,” Leon Hatch, father of player Isaiah Hatch, said just before the start of the fateful sixth inning.

He also noted that reality will set back in quickly when he gets home.

“When I get home, three days later, we have a football game we have to get ready for,” said the elder Hatch, who coaches the Decatur High School squad.

But the Auburn squad, which led 5-3 entering the top of the sixth inning, was unable to hold onto the dream, and the team's fans watched while it turned into a nightmare.

Texas managed to tie the game before a solo home run by Mason Van Noort gave the Southwest champs the lead for good. Two more runs added to the feeling that the end was near for the Green and Gold.

Still, Auburn fans cheered until they appered to be physically tired, especially the front row, which included Rebecca Nahaku, wife of the Auburn team manager, and Toni Manning, mom of the starting pitcher.

“That's my son pitching and I am nervous,” Manning said. “We were really happy last night and now we're really excited again. I just hope he does his best and doesn't make any mistakes, because he is very hard on himself.”

Her son did pitch well and when he left the mound, Auburn still held the lead. But, as one parent was overheard to say in the sixth inning, the Auburn bullpen ran out of pitching. And Texas responded.

After the last batter for Auburn struck out to end the game, dejected-looking Auburn players filed out onto the field, while the Texas squad came over and applauded them for putting up a gallant fight.

Hatch said his son's team will get a lot out of the experience, once the shock of the loss wears off.

"The boys worked really hard for this, just to get here,” he explained. “And they did a good job. They made their hometown, state and all of us very proud of them. They worked to be in this position, and it's a learning tool for life. The more pressure situations you are in, the better prepared you are for life.”

Manager Kai Nahaku agreed.

"It will take them awhile (to get over the loss),” Nahaku said. “But what they have experienced here, they will never forget.”

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Eric Long, a reporter with the NorthcentralPA.com team, is covering the series for the Auburn Reporter.

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