The crowd at Taps bar cheered every bloop hit and caught ball and excused every drop and miscue for the hometown Petaluma Nationals Little League team.

In the end, they saved the biggest cheer and high-fives for the last out, a hard line drive that landed in the mitt of the first baseman and sealed a 10-4 win.

"This is what I expected, the comfort these kids give you, you expect them to win," said Craig Jensen of Petaluma, who knows every player and most of their parents.

About 40 people were in the back room of Taps for a showing of the Little League playoff game that was televised on a back wall by a projector provided by Petaluma Community Access, which has aired radio coverage of the last four ballgames.

"People are caught up in this," executive director John Bertucci said.

In the main barroom, two of the six TVs were on the Petaluma Nationals game, as many as were broadcasting the Giants. The remaining TVs showed the Oakland A's and the San Francisco 49ers.

The scene was repeated at bars and restaurants across Petaluma, a city that has become transfixed by a group of 11- and 12-year-old ballplayers that is making purposeful strides toward the Little League World Series.

"Nothing like this happened when I was playing Little League in the '50s," said Mike Turner of Petaluma. "It is pretty damn cool to see Petaluma on TV. I am excited to see it."

Half the crowd was from the Little League community and knew the team and players, many had players as family friends and some were just rooting because they were Petalumans.

"I am a Petaluma homer, I love anything that is local, we are so excited the team has done so well," said Lisa Talley of Petaluma.

"It is a great feeling to be behind something sporting, it is good to root for the local kids," said Arann Harris of Petaluma. "There is nothing as pure as Little League baseball."

The crowd also rallied around the small-town team that could, the modern-day Hoosiers winning in the world of giants.

"This is what small-town America is all about," Justin Hansel of Petaluma said. "The concept of the Little League World Series and Petaluma works perfectly, perfect Americana."

(You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or