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Petaluma National aiming for Little League World Series

Fresh off winning a Northern California title, the Petaluma National Little League all-star team will open pool play Friday against Hawaii in a West Region tournament in San Bernardino.

The Nationals are just the second Sonoma County club of 11- and 12-year-olds to win a NorCal title in more than 50 years. (The other was Petaluma Valley in 1995.) They’ll play four games during a six-team round robin, with the top four advancing to the semifinals.

In addition to facing Hawaii, Petaluma National will square off against teams from Arizona, Southern California and Nevada.

Nationals coach Eric Smith said his team’s third game, against the Southern California champs, will likely draw a crowd of 10,000 or more, a big step up from the 300 or so who saw the team’s dramatic 12-11 championship game win over San Ramon on Saturday in Fremont.

The Nationals have been an offensive juggernaut all season, with every regular player having hit at least one home run

“The depth of the team has led to our success,” Smith said. “It’s been different people every night. Buying into the team concept has really helped us get here.”

Smith said Danny Marzo, Logan Douglas, Hance Smith and Kempton Brandis have all hit seven or more home runs and sport averages in the .400 to .500 range.

Marzo and Bradley Smith are the Nationals' primary starters, with Andrew White usually closing out games. Dylan Moore recorded the final outs of the NorCal championship.

Once pool play concludes Aug. 8, the Aug. 10 semifinals will air on ESPN 2 and ESPN. The Aug. 11 championship will air on ESPN, with the winner advancing to the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.

The team is holding a fundraiser Tuesday night at Beyond the Glory in Petaluma. If you dine there between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. and mention the team, 20 percent of your bill will go to cover the team’s travel expenses, Smith said. Game videos will be shown on the big screens. The restaurant is at 1371 N. McDowell Blvd., No. 130, near Kohl’s.