When the Petaluma National all-stars tied the game at 15-15 in the bottom the sixth inning, the nervous crowd of Petalumans at Beyond the Glory sports bar and grill Saturday afternoon erupted into an ear-splitting, stadium-volume roar.

Thomas Perry, president of the rival Petaluma American League, burst into a continuous chant of, "I believe, I believe."

The following inning would dash locals' hopes of seeing the 12- and 13-year-olds play in the Little League World Series title game today against Japan. But the fans were no less proud of the boys who have become hometown heroes.

"They'll be welcomed home with open arms. The town is proud of them no matter what," said Petaluma resident Jena Baptista, whose son Ryan, 9, plays in the Petaluma American League.

Ryan, was among the crowd's most vocal fans, often rallying spirits with his cadence of "Pe-ta-lu-ma." To which the crowd answered with five successive claps.

Sean Lynch, who along with his wife Monica owns Beyond the Glory, said the Petaluma team has given the community something to be proud of, and created a sense of joy.

On Saturday, there was a great deal of nail-biting, hand-wringing and groans during the marathon, 24-16 loss. But there were mostly proud cheers and applause for the Petaluma youngsters giving their best in Pennsylvania.

"More than anything is that it's just such a positive event for the city," Lynch said. "You got a bunch of 40-plus year old men here. No one is caring that these kids are 12 years old. These kids are athletes."

Lynch and others were quick to point out that the team will be welcomed home with a parade next Sunday.

Frauka Kozar, a member of the Rip City Riders motorcycle club, said her club is expected to escort the players' vehicle caravan from Novato to Petaluma on Monday. The motorcycle group also contributed funds to help pay for travel costs of team families.

"They're already winners. Look at where they are," Kozar said. "For Petaluma to go that far is pretty awesome."