By RICK SMITH
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SAN BERNARDINO — The Petaluma Nationals are a perfect 2-0 in the West Region Little League tournament after Saturday’s 2-1 win against the team from Tucson, Ariz.
The Nationals play two more in round-robin play, including Monday night for state bragging rights against a Southern California team from Orange at 8 p.m.
Keeping an eye on the target, manager Eric Smith was thinking ahead but not too far ahead.
“We have two games scheduled, that’s it,” the manager said, declining to discuss talk of the ultimate target, South Williamsport, Pa., and the Little League World Series later this month.
Although Petaluma is 15-2 in tournament games this year, South Williamsport is still far down the road.
There is a Tuesday game against Nevada at 5 p.m. that follows Petaluma’s game with Orange on Monday. The Nevada contest will end round-robin pool play.
The teams with the best four records in pool play will advance to the single-elimination semifinal round on Friday. A winer-take-all final is Saturday.
The Petaluma manager used three pitchers Saturday and received strong performances from starter Dan Marzo and reliever Logan Douglas and closer Andrew White, who combined to hold Arizona to five hits and one run. White pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings to close out the game, allowing one hit with three strikeouts.
Petaluma’s Porter Slate and Marzo made sharp defensive plays in the fifth and sixth innings.
On the mound, Marzo gave up one run on three hits in the first three innings. He also doubled and scored in the fourth inning, when the Nationals scored twice to erase a 1-0 deficit.
Douglas led off the inning with a single and went to third base on Marzo’s double to right field. After Bradley Smith was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Douglas scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Hance Smith that tied the game at 1-1.
Marzo advanced to third base and then scored the winning run with a heady play. He faked coming home then went back to third base after James O’Hanlon flew out to right field.
The Tucson right fielder went for Marzo’s maneuver and threw to first base thinking Marzo would hold at third. The Petaluma player then raced in with the run. Marzo went 2 for 3 and Quinton Gago was 2 for 2 for the Nationals.
These tight games haven’t been easy for the manager. Pitching, pitch counts, managing the egos of 13 players, and listening to parents can cause insomnia, Smith said.
“I hate to admit it; it’s 12-year-old baseball, but I have lost sleep over it.” Smith said.
“I’m better now,” said Smith, regarding his sleeping patterns. “We’ve played 17 games. I know what we’ve got. The players have bought into this and they know their roles. We don’t have an ego problem.”
What about the parents? “Curve ball,” Smith said, almost laughing, then added, “They’ve been exceptional this year.”
Little League Baseball West Regional Tournament
At Houghton Stadium, San Bernardino
Petaluma Nationals, 2-0
Nevada Cheyenne, 1-0
Hawaii Nanakuli, 1-1
Utah Cedar National, 0-1
Arizona Rincon, 0-1
Southern California Orange, 0-1
Petaluma 11, Hawaii 9
Nevada 3, Utah 0
Petaluma 2, Arizona 1
Hawaii 5, Southern California 2
Southern California vs. Utah, 9 a.m.
Nevada vs. Arizona, 11:30 a.m.
Hawaii vs. Arizona, 9 a.m.
Petaluma vs. Southern California, 8 p.m.
Petaluma vs. Nevada, 5 p.m.
Utah vs. Hawaii, 8 p.m.
Note: Top four teams at conclusion of round-robin competition advance to semifinal round.