BILLINGS (AP) — The first Montana team to advance to the Little League World Series is back home after spending nearly a month on the road.
Hundreds of family, friends and fans were at Billings Logan International Airport on Sunday evening when the Big Sky All-Stars returned.
The team won the Northwest Regional tournament in San Bernardino, Calif., and flew straight to South Williamsport, Pa., for the series. Montana fell to California 11-2 in the U.S. championship game after beating the team from Huntington Beach 1-0 three days earlier.
"We knew there's gonna be some people, but we didn't know there's gonna be, like, this many people," said Ben Askelson, whose walk-off home run in the seventh inning gave Montana the semifinal win over California.
"We've heard all about how much you guys have supported us, watching all the games and stuff, so I just want to say thanks, that's very cool," said Askelson, who is 13.
Carl and Karen Maehl of Helena were at the airport to pick up their grandson, Andy Maehl. Most of the team's parents weren't arriving home until Monday.
"It was crazy. I mean, everyone started cheering, big mob of people," Andy Maehl said on the eve of his 13th birthday
Karen Maehl said her grandson was a little tired and hungry.
Barry McKenzie was with a group waiting for his nephew, Cole McKenzie.
"It's been pretty amazing to watch this whole thing happen," said Barry McKenzie, a former Little League player who traveled to Pennsylvania for Montana's first two series games. "It's even hard for me to talk about."
Ian Leatherberry says Askelson's game-winning home run and hanging out with his teammates are his favorite memories of the trip.
Maehl said he was looking forward to seeing his dog and sleeping in his own bed.
City residents aren't done celebrating the All-Stars' 2011 season.
Billings plans a parade and barbecue on Saturday.+