If you were at Montana State University Billings' Petro Theatre on Sunday to watch the Big Sky All Stars' 3-1 victory over Lafayette, La., in the second round of the Little League World Series, you didn't have to actually watch the game to know what was going on.
Aside from the frequent — and raucous — cheers from the nearly 300 fans packed into the theater, all you really had to do was keep an eye on Brandi MacDonald.
The mother of 12-year-old Brock MacDonald, one of the 12 Billings boys on the team, played out the game in her actions — tense with hands clasped when she was nervous and cheerful while clapping and yelling with the crowd when things went the team's way.
"I hope they go all the way," she said. "They've surprised everybody so far. Well, not surprised, we knew they could do it, but they can keep going."
The game was a little bittersweet for MacDonald. She said she's the only mother of a player who didn't make it to South Williamsport, Pa., for the game.
But she has good reason. She flew to Denver to catch a flight out there but got so sick that she had to return to Billings.
As the next best thing, she brought Brock's 3-year-old sister, Boston, her two sisters, her parents and a niece — all decked out in gold or black raglan shirts with Brock's name and number — to Petro to cheer on the team.
"We didn't plan for it, but we're happy," MacDonald said.
The team from Billings is making a historic run through the Little League World Series. The first Montana team to reach the Little League World Series, the All-Stars have won their first two games and are in the semifinals of the U.S. bracket. Two more victories would put them in the championship game against the top international team.
The team's next game, against Huntington Beach, Calif., will be aired on ESPN on Wednesday at 6 p.m. MDT. Petro will once again host a viewing for that game.
The crowd at Petro, in a game-like atmosphere that included a 50-50 raffle and barbecued burgers and hot dogs, stayed enthusiastic and energetic throughout the game and noticably intensified their efforts as the game wore on.
Led by a large group of Big Sky Little League players, they cheered for every strike, every out and clutch play. The room erupted whenever the All Stars scored.
"Everyone was cheering and yelling so loud," said Sam Evenson, 12, who played on a team with several of the All Stars. "It was crazy."
When the game ended, many of the youngsters in the crowd hopped on the stage in front of the big screen to dance and cheer.
"This team is really believing in themselves, and Billings is too," said Stan Eliason, a Big Sky Little League board member. "This is a special group that's down there."
While the team has been busy in South Williamsport playing nationally televised games, doing interviews on ESPN and soaking up the game atmosphere, people back in Billings are closely following them, even if they don't know it.
"I don't know if it's really sunk in with them yet," MacDonald said. "They're famous, like rock stars, around here right now. But they always just sit back and play the game."