The more the Fairfield American Little League team played, the more people hopped on its bandwagon.

In districts and sectionals it was reserved for local media, friends and family. By the time it reached New England Regionals, it had grown to ESPN, NESN, and other Little League followers around Connecticut.

Few could have dreamed that it would pick up more national media and more fans from across the country and world, before American's world title dreams were dashed Tuesday, 5-0 by Petaluma, Calif.

"They're disappointed," American manager Bill Meury said. "They realized in the fifth inning that this deficit would be tough to close."

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One Williamsport radio reporter noted "it seemed like (American) had more fun than any team here -- perhaps in a few years." They played ping pong and learned Japanese. They ate catered meals and played on pristine fields, what's not to love about that?

"I believe that ... everyone here wants to win," Meury said. "But I think they had the proper perspective. I think the parents and the boys really enjoyed the entire tournament."

And I think what's best is, the 12- and 13-year-old boys and their three coaches never let it go to their heads.

They were the same bunch who beat Fairfield National -- for the district title -- on July 14 as the squad who

no-hit New Castle, Ind. Monday night. In fact, the only difference I noticed in covering them for six weeks was they all got

a little better at talking to media.

That's a good thing.

Now, unfortunately, they -- and we all -- have to go back to our ordinary lives.

But the kids -- and everyone they attracted on this six-week journey -- will have long-lasting memories. Will Lucas' no-hitter, Biagio Paoletta's sweet, powerful swing. Matt Kubel and Ryan Meury's dominant pitching.

And what will last above all is how, most incredibly, this club displayed a champion's poise and perseverance on the grandest stage.

Bill Meury knew a World Series title was a longshot, especially after his club lost its opening game to Petaluma, Calif. Even after Lucas authored the tournament's feel-good moment with his no-no Monday, he knew staving off elimination for a third straight game would not be easy.

"Every time you go into an elimination game, you know it could be the reality," Meury said. "We weren't so intoxicated by our own success to think that we could never lose."

But winning the tournament was never the ultimate goal. It was always about winning the game today and if American did -- as it did most days -- it would go farther, and take more people along with it.

"We told them `you probably gave them one of the best summers Fairfield ever had,'" Meury said.

Ultimately it was about 11 boys, most of whom played baseball together for three consecutive years, who had the ultimate summer in 2012.

"We love them, they're terrific," Meury said. "They had a great summer. They had a great three years."

They'll go on to be the New York Mets' guest at Citi Field, they received a hero's welcome at Sherman Green, and will be celebrated by Fairfield for years -- perhaps even decades -- to come.

And they deserve it all.

ppickens@bcnnew.com; twitter.com/Pat_Pickens