By RICK SMITH
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SAN BERNARDINO — Petaluma National defeated North Las Vegas, Nev, 10-6, Tuesday night and will be the No. 1 seed in the finals of the West Regional Little League championship tournament here beginning Friday.
Friday's semifinal games and Saturday's championship game will be nationally televised on ESPN and ESPN2, with Petaluma's next game airing at 6 p.m. Friday on ESPN. The winner of Saturday's championship game will head to the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.
The Nationals struck first with four runs in the first inning. Petaluma coach Eric Smith, in what could be described as a stroke of genius, sent Kempton Brandis up to pinch hit for Dylan Moore. Brandis hit a three-run homer.
“Feel free to write stroke of genius,” Smith said, laughing, “but it’s part of our general pattern when we have people on base, to get Kempton in there. We look for spots like that.”
With a 4-0 record, the Nationals now will rest until Friday, when they enter the single-elimination portion of the tournament against one of the four teams they have already beaten.
“Before today’s game I was looking forward to some time off if we won,” said Smith. “After the game you feel like you want to keep playing. We’ll give them tomorrow off and then have a long practice Thursday,” Smith said.
“All of our pitchers are available. We’re ready.”
Petaluma took a 1-0 on Bradley Smith’s single that scored Logan Douglas. With Smith and Dan Marzo on base, Brandis drove Jesse Fonteboa’s pitch over the left field fence. Fonteboa had just replaced starter Jimmy Gamboa.
The 4-0 lead didn’t last long. Nevada’s Ryan Merino hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the first off Marzo. “When I delivered, I said to myself, ‘Dang! I left it over the plate,’” Marzo said.
Petaluma began building its lead again. Bradley Smith scored for a 5-3 advantage in the third inning when Quinton Gago’s soft tap to shortstop was bobbled.
Smith had reached safely when his grounder to third was mishandled and advanced to third when Hance Smith dumped a Texas League blooper down the right field line.
Blake Buhrer singled, went to second on a passed ball and came in on Porter Slate’s double to the gap in right center. Slate scored on Logan Douglas’ poorly fielded single to center, and Douglas scored on Bradley Smith’s ground out to make it 8-3 after four innings.
Andrew White replaced Marzo on the mound with two outs in the third and kept Nevada in check until the fifth, when Merino bombed another three-run homer to make the score 8-6.
Back came Petaluma in its last at-bat. Douglas singled. Marzo then drove a pitch from Layton Walls well beyond the fence in right center.
Nevada cut the lead to 8-6 with a three-run fifth inning, but Petaluma added two insurance runs in the top of the sixth. Gago closed out the game in relief.