UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Braden Kolmansberger and the Red Land Little Leaguers are used to having the spotlight and pressure on them. But getting challenged to kick a 30-yard field goal at the end of Penn State football practice? Red Land head coach Tom Peifer thought this would be the time his kids would meet their match.
Of course the 12-year Kolmansberger, who also plays soccer, stepped up with over 100 Nittany Lions, an imposing James Franklin and his own teammates watching....and he nailed it.
"Dead accuracy," Kolmansberger said, smiling afterwards. "Right down the middle." He then added that he was probably "More nervous for that kick than I will be for tomorrow's game."
When Kolmansberger's kick went through the uprights, his coach couldn't believe his eyes.
"I had a lot of doubt!" Peifer said, laughing. "I didn't think he'd make it with all the kids watching. It was crazy."
And as for Franklin, who challenged Kolmansberger and told his team he would do push-ups if the Red Land second baseman made it, owned up to the bet.
"I thought it was money in the bank, but I guess it wasn't," Franklin said. "I guess with the way their season is going, it doesn't surprise me.
Nothing is surprising anymore with the Red Land Little Leaguers, who will play for the U.S. Championship at the Little League World Series on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against Pearland, Texas. Red Land defeated the Southwest Regional champions 3-0 on Wednesday. Since earning a berth in Saturday's game, Red Land has tried to stay loose as much as possible. Friday's trip to Penn State gave them a chance to experience some first-class treatment off the diamond.
"Relaxation is the best thing you can do. Being out here, having fun, is what it's all about," Kolmansberger said.
Their trip to Penn State's practice was one of many VIP experiences Red Land received Friday. They arrived at Beaver Stadium around 4:30 p.m., took a tour of the Nittany Lions locker room, and took a team photo on the field. After that, they visited Penn State's Lasch Football Complex, and got to see the team's trophies, players-only lounge, and weight room.
Fittingly, the night ended with baseball, as Red Land ate dinner inside a club suite at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park while watching the State College Spikes. In the middle of the third inning, they were honored over the stadium's loudspeaker and were given a standing ovation.
"It was great to be at Penn State and go to a ball game for free and get the tour," a wide-eyed Chayton Krauss said as the night wound down. "This was one of the best days of my life."