By RICK SMITH
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SAN BERNARDINO — Much more is on the line tonight for the Petaluma National Little League squad than state bragging rights.
At 8 p.m. tonight, the Northern California champion Nationals face off against the Southern California champion at the Little League West Regional tournament at Chuck Houghton Stadium.
After winning its first two games in round-robin play, Petaluma can advance to the semifinals with one victory in its next two games. Matchups in the semifinals are based on seedings, so it’s the Nationals’ aim to win both games.
Petaluma coach Eric Smith scouted Saturday and Sunday’s games following his team’s 2-1 win against Arizona on Saturday afternoon.
Smith watched Southern California on Saturday night during its 5-2 loss to Hawaii, the same club the Nationals outscored 11-9 in Thursday’s opening game. The coach got a second look at Monday’s opponent Sunday morning, when Southern California defeated Utah, 7-1, in the first game of the day.
Because of the heat there was a break of about four hours between Sunday’s morning and late afternoon games. In the second contest of the day, Arizona beat Nevada 13-5. Petaluma will play Nevada on Tuesday.
Tonight against Southern California, the Nationals will start with Bradley Smith on the mound. The remaining staff of Andrew White, Logan Douglas, Quinton Gago, and Dylan Moore also will be available.
Only Dan Marzo is prevented from pitching because of an accrued pitch count of 50 on Saturday. By rule, Marzo will not be allowed on the mound again until Tuesday.
The players were off Sunday until meeting for a team dinner at 5 p.m., followed by a practice under the lights in the evening.
At 15-2 in tournament play, Petaluma has met its challenges, but Smith refused to engage in conversation about events beyond Tuesday.
“There’s too much left,” he said, referring to the two games remaining prior to the seeding of the top four teams for the semifinal round.
Though focused on baseball, Smith is ready for a break. “I’m going to watch some (Olympics) if I can find a TV,” he said.
Little League West Regional Tournament
At San Bernardino
Southern California, 1-1
Petaluma 11, Hawaii 9
Nevada 3, Utah 0
Petaluma 2, Arizona 1
Hawaii 5, SoCal 2
SoCal 7, Utah 1
Arizona 13, Nevada 5
Hawaii vs. Arizona, 9 a.m.
Petaluma vs. SoCal, 8 p.m.
Petaluma vs. Nevada, 5 p.m.
Utah vs. Hawaii, 8 p.m.
Utah vs. Arizona, 5 p.m.
Nevada vs. SoCal, 8 p.m.
Note: Top four teams at conclusion of round-robin competition advance to semifinal round on Friday.