It was clear the ball didn't have enough to get past the infield, and the crowd, nearly 4,000 strong, began to cheer in disbelief. Many of them were already on their feet. Others rose to join them.
As third baseman D DeSantis scooped up the ball and threw to first, the players in the dugout edged onto the field, squeezing each other's arms.
First baseman David McElvain closed his glove; the ball disappeared, and the crowd erupted.
McElvain leapt. All the players leapt, in that ungainly way that kids jump around in excitement, skipping and falling and tackling each other as they ran toward the pitcher's mound.
On Aug. 15, 1991, Gulfport's Arnold S. White Stadium became the field of dreams for 14 boys from Dunedin National Little League. They were the last team from the Tampa Bay area to win the region and advance to the Little League World Series.
"It was the time of our lives," team member Jeremy Kurella, now 29, said. "We were little celebrities."
When they returned home the day after their final game at the Little League World Series, a few hundred people greeted them at the airport. They finished sixth in the world, and the city of Dunedin held a parade in their honor.
Years later, the players tucked away their mementos in dresser drawers. "It seems like such a long time ago," said team member Toby Evans, 29.
Players from the '91 team never lost their love for the game, but their own high expectations were tempered. Though some chose to concentrate on soccer or tennis in later years, many continued to play organized baseball.
No one from that team made it to the major leagues. These days the lineup includes a lawyer (DeSantis), a deputy sheriff (Kurella), and a high school baseball and softball coach (Evans) — to mention just a few of their fields of interest.
"A lot of us went off in different paths," Kurella said. "But many of us still keep in touch. When we get together, we still talk about our Little League experience. There are a lot of kids out there who would like to do what we did."
Two years ago, another Dunedin team almost did.
Dunedin Little League's 2006 team won the state tournament and played at the Southeast Regional. In the days leading up to the tournament, Kurella stopped by the team's practices to show off a scrapbook from his '91 team.
"There were lots of 'oohs' and 'aahs' from the kids," Kurella said.
The 2006 Dunedin team made it to the region final. Players from the '91 team made it a point to watch the game, even if they were not in attendance.
"It's different now, because they have ESPN televising the final," said Evans, who now lives in Atlanta. "I wish we had that back in '91. But it was still fun to watch that team play in Gulfport.
"It sure brought back a lot of memories."
Bob Putnam can be reached at email@example.com