The Petaluma National Little League 11-year-old All-Star team set off some early Fireworks on the Fourth of July, blasting three home runs in a 5-2 win over Petaluma American Little League.
The win, accomplished on the Westside Little League diamond in Santa Rosa, advanced the Nationals to the District 35 championship game to be played at Westside Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. The Nationals' opponent could well be Petaluma American again. The Americans have a 5:30 p.m. game Monday, and a win there would match them again against the Nationals. However, it would take two American wins against their rivals for the district title, while the Nationals need just one more victory to advance to the Section Tournament.
The holiday morning match was a well-played contest featuring strong starting pitching from the Nationals' Cole Santander and the Americans Chris 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 Nationals, 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 Jack 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 Marco Masio.
Aside from the long balls, the Nationals didn't do a lot against Sanchez and reliever Taylor, who were backed by superb defense, including a sparkling double play from first baseman Taylor to third baseman Masio and an excellent catch by center fielder Jovani Bentivegna.