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Big bombs give National 11s district title


The Petaluma National Little League 11-year-old All-Star team used a saturation bombing attack to blast its way to the District 35 Tournament championship Tuesday evening. The Nationals crashed five home runs in a 16-1 romp over Petaluma American in an all-Petaluma tournament conclusion played at the Westside Little League diamond in Santa Rosa.

The decisive win capped a perfect 4-0 run to the district title for the Nationals. The Americans, trying to bounce back through the losers' bracket, were 5-2 in the tournament, with both losses coming at the hands of the Nationals.

Petaluma National got on a roll early and just kept going in the tournament finals, scoring two runs in each of the first four innings and putting an exclamation on their victory with an eight-run outburst in the top of the fifth inning, forcing the game to be called by the 10-run rule after the Americans had batted in the bottom of that frame.

In order, the Nationals counted home runs from substitute Sam Highland (solo), pitcher Cole Santander (solo), leadoff hitter Ryan Ramos (solo), Jack Gallagher (two-run) and catcher Nathan Linstrom (three run).

Of course, the bombs weren't the only National hits in the onslaught. The district champions had 18 hits against six American League pitchers.

Ramos had two hits and scored two runs. Santander singled twice to go with his homer and scored three runs. Gallagher doubled and homered and scored twice. Jared Marweg came off the bench for two hits. Highland added a single to his homer. Linstrom had a huge game with a single and double to go with his home run.

Meanwhile, National pitchers Santander and Gallagher weren't perfect, but they were very good. Santander worked three innings and two outs before being forced off the mound by the Little League pitch-count rule. He allowed three hits, walked three and struck out five. Gallagher took over two outs into the fourth inning, and gave up an infield single to Jacob Perry, the first batter he faced, but whiffed the next four straight to end the game with a flourish.

The Nationals didn't have too many difficult chances in the field, but the plays they had to make, they did make, with Gallagher at shortstop and right fielder Ramos doing some particularly sparkling glove work.

On the Americans' side, they played strong defense as they have for the entire tournament, but too often the Nationals hit where they couldn't catch — like off and over the fence. The Americans did receive some nice plays from shortstop Carson White and center fielder Alexandra Lyons. Hits came from Kyle Taylor, Tony Sabella, Lyons and Perry.

Chris Sanchez hustled home the only American run when he walked and scored all the way from first base on Taylor's long single to left.

The game was far different from the very competitive contest the same two teams played in a winners' bracket showdown on the Fourth of July. The Nationals team set off some early Fireworks in that game, blasting three home runs, but had to work hard for a 5-2 win over the Americans.

The holiday morning match was a well-played contest featuring strong starting pitching from the Nationals' Santander and the Americans Sanchez and several sparkling defensive plays.

But it was the home runs that were the difference.

The Nationals scored without benefit of a base hit in the first inning.

In the second, the Americans, who had gone down on three whiffs in the first, bunched four of their five hits for their only runs. Kyle Taylor, Marco Masio, Noah Bailey and Kevin Cadle all had singles in the uprising.

The National bats boomed loudly in the third inning when Santander and Gallagher went deep back-to-back over the high, but short, right field fence.

Those blows alone would have been enough for the Nationals, but to be sure, Santander sailed his second homer way over the right-field fence to score two-more runs in the fifth.

Meanwhile, he also pitched three and a third strong innings, giving up no more base runners after the second, and finishing with eight strikeouts. Cort Gago finished up with three strikeouts, allowing just one base runner on a hustling infield hit by Masio.

Petaluma bounced back from that loss to defeat Petaluma Valley, 8-3, setting up the rematch with the Nationals.

Petaluma Valley fought hard through the losers' bracket after losing its opening game to Rincon Valley National, 15-3. The Valley won four straight before being eliminated by the Americans.