By RICK SMITH
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SAN BERNARDINO — Cole Tomei’s single down the right-field line in the bottom of the sixth inning scored James O’Hanlon, and Petaluma clinched a spot in the West Regional Little League semifinals with a 3-2 victory over the Southern California Orange on Monday night before a crowd of about 3,500 at Chuck Houghton Stadium.
“Well, I’m sure we’ll have a game on Friday (in the seeded portion of the tournament),” said Petaluma coach Eric Smith. “We’ve had a couple walk-off wins this year, but it gets more exciting the further you go.”
Dylan Moore doubled with one out in the sixth. A passed ball moved Moore’s pinch runner, Austin Paretti, to third. With two out, James O’Hanlon grounded to third but was safe on a bad throw as Paretti scored the tying run. O’Hanlon scored when Tomei drove Brandon Ducheny’s pitch past first base.
Smith credited Moore for jump-starting the rally.
“You’re thinking, ‘Put the bat on the ball. Get something going,’” said Smith. “I can’t underestimate the job Dylan Moore did. He was the difference.”
Petaluma now is 3-0 and plays Nevada at 5 p.m. today in the round-robin tournament. If the Nationals win in the semifinals Friday, they will play in Saturday’s Regional final with a berth in the Little League World Series at South Williamsport, Pa., at stake.
Petaluma fell behind Southern California early. In the top of the first inning, the Orange loaded the bases against Nationals starting pitcher Bradley Smith. Three singles and an error plated two runs.
Petaluma got a run back when Porter Slate led off the bottom of the first with a home run. Slate’s high drive cleared the right-field fence, landing on the roof of the concession stand about 15 feet behind the wall.
Southern California starter Chris Huerta was almost untouchable after Slate’s homer. The stocky right-hander threw 88 pitches and gave up one run on two hits in 4« innings before he maxed out his allowed pitch count.
Smith, who pitched out of trouble several times, ended up allowing six hits and two runs (one earned) in five innings. He also had four strikeouts and one walk.
Andrew White relieved Smith and pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth to set up Petaluma for the comeback victory.
Little League West Regional Tournament
At San Bernardino
Southern California, 1-2
Petaluma 11, Hawaii 9
Nevada 3, Utah 0
Petaluma 2, Arizona 1
Hawaii 5, Southern California 2
Southern California 7, Utah 1
Arizona 13, Nevada 5
Arizona 6, Hawaii 2
Petaluma 3, Southern California 2
Petaluma vs. Nevada, 5 p.m.
Utah vs. Hawaii, 8 p.m.
Utah vs. Arizona, 5 p.m.
Nevada vs. Southern Cal, 8 p.m.
Note: Top four teams at conclusion of round-robin competition advance to semifinal round on Friday.