SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Powerful Petaluma, Calif., can pitch, too.
Hance Smith’s three-run homer in the third broke open a tight game, and Quinton Gago struck out seven over 5a innings in a 5-0 win Tuesday night over Fairfield, Conn., in the Little League World Series.
California moves on to the U.S. semifinals on Thursday night. Connecticut was eliminated.
Fairfield’s best chance came in the second when Michael Ghiorzi led off with a single, and an error put runners on first and second with nobody out.
But third baseman Cole Tomei charged a bunt and started a 5-6-4 double play, and Gago, a 12-year-old left-hander, got a strikeout to end the threat.
Ryan Meury led off the Connecticut sixth with a double, and Gago left after a groundout because he had reached his pitch limit. He got a hug from a teammate before heading to the dugout before reliever Andrew White closed it out.
Nuevo Laredo, Mexico also is moving on – to today’s international semifinals – after a 6-2 victory over Willemstad, Curaao. Mexico played without manager Fernando Rios, who was suspended two games after a player on his roster did not bat during a 4-3 victory over Taiwan on Monday night.
And Lugazi, Uganda, made the biggest splash of the day with a win in its tournament finale.
The first team from Africa to qualify for youth baseball’s biggest tournament notched another first with a 3-2 victory over Gresham, Ore., in a consolation game. Uganda dropped its first two games in the series.
Ronald Olaa scored the winning run from second on a throwing error.
Manager Henry Odong said he urged his team to just make contact because hitting had been a challenge in South Williamsport.
Uganda plans to play more exhibition games this week, but the players already have become Little League stars. They are being hounded by young autograph-seekers, and Odong was stopped several times by fans for pictures while going to his seat in the stands to watch California’s victory.
“I’m thankful we could come here,” Odong said. “This win was so great.”