Montana's congressional delegation has Big Sky All-Stars fever, too.
Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester and Rep. Denny Rehberg all offered congratulations to the Billings team after their big win over California on Wednesday night.
Baucus commended the team in a statement after the win: "This team has truly showcased on the world stage the values we hold dear as Montanans: hard work, dedication and teamwork. My hat goes off to the Billings players, their families and their coaches. They've made such an impressive journey and Mel and I will be rooting for them as they continue this historic season."
Tester also congratulated the Big Sky All-Stars on their impressive run to the championship game and had his remarks placed in the Congressional Record. His statement:
"Mr. President, I rise to share some exciting news from my home state of Montana. As many already know, the Little League World Series is nearing its thrilling completion. Montana's team, the Big Sky All-Stars from Billings, will play in the U.S. Championship Game on Saturday after its breathtaking win last night.
"This Billings team is the first team from Montana to reach the Little League World Series. Only eight teams from the thousands of Little Leagues across the country make it to the World Series held in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania each year.
"One of our boys, Ian Leatherberry, originally said that the team was just hoping to make it to the regional tournament. Now, they've played so long that they have a good excuse for missing the first week of school.
"Behind the leadership of Manager Gene Carlson and his coaches, these Treasure State champs have become the talk of the tournament and the nation. Behind great pitching, outstanding defense and timely hitting, they quickly proved they belonged by defeating South Dakota and Louisiana, winning each game by a thrilling two-run margin.
"Despite our state not even having a million people, Montana's All-Stars didn't blink when taking on the team from Huntington Beach, California last night. Montana's starting pitcher Cole McKenzie battled California's hitters, holding them scoreless. Then, Ben Askelson hit a dramatic walk-off home run to give our boys an amazing 1-0 win in extra innings.
"It's honestly no surprise to me that the Big-Sky All Stars keep punching above their weight class. Whether competing in Little League baseball or contributing vital resources to our economy, Montana thrives off competing with the big boys. That's why Montanans from Billings to Libby rally around these young players.
"I wish Gene and his players the best of luck in the National Championship game Saturday and will be cheering for them with all of Montana. I know the boys will continue to play with great skill and determination, and make everyone from the Big Sky State proud."
Tester also called to congratulate Ben Askelson, the slugger who hit the winning home run Wednesday night, and to wish the entire team good luck in Saturday's game. He said he plans to watch Saturday's game in Billings at Petro Theatre on the Montana State University Billings campus.
Rehberg also submitted for the Congressional Record a statement of congratulations, which reads:
"History records important events and the people involved, which, on a grand scale, are significant to us all. But history is also recorded at the local level, and to mark a historic occasion in sports for a team from the great state of Montana, I recognize the Billings Big Sky Little League All-Stars who became the first team from Montana to earn the right to compete with the world's best in the Little League Baseball World Series.
"In the Northwest Regional Championship game, the Billings Big Sky All-Stars defeated Bend South Little League, from Bend, Oregon, 7 -1. The victory gave Big Sky Little League the regional title and a place in the 16-team field of national and international Regional Champions competing for the 65th Little League World Series Title.
"Championships at any level are never given away, they are earned, and not just from one day of competition. Titles are won beginning with a love and respect for the game, a dedication to being the best you can be, and an appreciation for all those who help you reach for your goals.
"The Little League logo carriers the words, "Character, Courage, Loyalty," helping to promote strong values in our youth and our communities. Congratulations to the players and coaches of the Billings Big Sky Little League All-Stars for coming together in championship form, and for upholding the Little League values in sportsmanship and excellence. Your family, friends, fans and fellow Montanans are proud of your accomplishment.
"Billings Big Sky Little League All-Stars: (number, name, positions) 33-Ben Askelson P/C, 45-Sean Jones P/3B, 13-Pearce Kurth P/1B, 22-Brock MacDonald P/OF, 19-Patrick Zimmer P/SS, 2-Jet Campbell 2B, 1-Connor Kieckbusch 2B/OF, 25-Ian Leatherberry IF/P, 24-Dawson Smith 1B/OF, 10-Andy Maehl OF/C, 27-Cole McKenzie OF/IF, 11-Gabe Sulser OF, Gene Carlson - Manager, Mark Kieckbusch - Assistant Coach , Tom Zimmer - Assistant Coach.""
Rehberg announced Friday that he plans to attend the Saturday game with his wife, Jan, son AJ and daughter Elsie.
"It's been so much fun to watch these games and to see Montanans come together and show such strong support for our talented young athletes," said Rehberg, a pitcher who played Little League at Rose Park. "I promised my daughter that we'd go to the game if they made it to the national championship, and after that amazing win on Wednesday, we booked the tickets. Elsie knows some of the kids on the team and Conner Kieckbusch's mom was her fourth grade teacher. So it's going to be a real treat to see the kids perform on the national stage. What they've accomplished means a lot to those of us from Billings and to all Montanans."