Fifteen minutes after Warrenfeltz arrived, the players began to trickle in. Some, like senior Tyler Byers, had shut down completely. Others, like Tyler's brother, Colby, a talented freshman backup catcher, kept asking why this had happened. Warrenfeltz gathered them in the dugout. "The most important thing I want to say to you guys is this: However you feel is however you feel," he said. "If you're devastated to the point where you just need to sit down by yourself, away from everybody, that's fine. There's no timetable here, no way you're supposed to be feeling on this day or that day."
For the next two hours and each of the following two afternoons, the boys just hung out at the field. Some, like Ryan Butts and Tyler Nally, followed their usual routine—dressing, hitting off the tee—because they needed the structure and the distraction. Others sat in silence. A few threw the ball around; others played home run derby. Just being together anchored them. All season long the players had been exceptionally close. They'd gone out to eat together, fished together on Saturdays and walked the school hallways in clusters of six or seven. In the days after the accident, though, they became a family. On Sunday night Tyler Byers slept at outfielder Brandon Greene's house for comfort. Sunday morning, at the field, the freshmen had cried on the shoulders of the seniors. Watching this, Warrenfeltz realized the question wasn't whether they should keep playing but for how long they could. Every day they were together was precious.
There was only one problem: the playoff schedule. Williamsport was slated to play on Friday afternoon, during Brendon's viewing.
Warrenfeltz called Williamsport's athletic director, Stan Stouffer, who called the state office and explained the situation. The Wildcats were given a choice: They could play on Friday afternoon or at 2 p.m. on Saturday. That wasn't much better, though; Brendon's funeral was at 11 that morning. Can we push the game back to Monday? Warrenfeltz asked. The state office balked. It couldn't hold up the whole tournament for one team.
Torn, Warrenfeltz called Brendon's grandparents. They had helped raise him while Chad, who lived with the boy after splitting with his mother, Amy, worked 11-hour days as an X-ray technologist at an outpatient facility in Leesburg, an hour away. He asked them one question: Should we play?
Gail Colliflower answered immediately: You have to.
The line of cars heading to Brendon's funeral stretched for nearly a mile, so that the Williamsport police closed down one lane of traffic and turned it into a parking strip. By 12:30 on Saturday, hundreds of people had gathered at Greenlawn Memorial Park cemetery as Brendon was buried in his blue number 6 Wildcats jersey. The morning was warm but hazy, and midway through the ceremony somebody pointed to the sky. Soon enough everyone was looking up, for there, circling the sun, was a rainbow. To Chad, it looked like a halo.
At one, the Wildcats said their final goodbyes, laying their hands on their friend's casket and chanting, "One-two-three, Brendon!" Then they drove the half mile to the field. They had less than 45 minutes to warm up. They changed into their uniforms in their cars and jogged to the field. More than a few still had tear-stained faces.
It had been more than a week since the Wildcats had practiced. They were without their best player and star pitcher. Many parents wondered if their boys could even play. But even though the opponent, ninth-seeded Wheaton High of Silver Spring, was winless—in Maryland every team makes the playoffs—there is no way to explain what happened next.
The Wildcats hit with a power that had been missing all season. Tyler Byers drove in two runs; so did Brandon Greene. Zach crushed a home run that soared to where Warrenfeltz's grandmother, who preferred to watch the game in her car, was parked, 410 feet from home plate. As she scooted out of the way, the shot shattered her windshield, a piece of glass piercing the ball. The final score was 22--0. More astonishing, four Williamsport pitchers had combined to throw a no-hitter.