Petaluma Valley vaulted into the Major championship game in District 35 Little League tournament play with a 7-3 win over Santa Rosa American on the Fourth of July at Murphy Field.
Valley jumped to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning on back-to-back home runs by Cole Shimek and Jack Gallagher, and never looked back. The Americans countered with a pair of home runs of their own in the bottom of the frame, but they never grabbed the lead.
Murphy Field looked like a version of a launching pad in the opening innings, but things settled down when Valley reliever Andrew Simpson took command of the game in the bottom of the third inning. Simpson replaced starter Chance Torri with one out, and was nails for the rest of the game.
Simpson looked like anything but a closer when he took his pre-game warm-ups, but he was totally focused down the stretch when it mattered. Several of the practice tosses rattled high off the protective screen, and were well out the strike zone before the game started.
With two out and a couple of American runners aboard, Valley manager Joe Lampe turned to Simpson, and he was a different pitcher. Simpson didn't give up an earned run the rest of the way to get credit for the win. He struck out three along the way and got terrific infield support on balls hit on the ground.
Second baseman Joe Lampe was especially sharp in the contest with four assists, including three difficult bouncers at his feet.
Lampe opened the third inning by walking and came home when Ethan Rapoport redirected a fastball by Santa Rosa pitcher Andrew Glavine over the center field fence that was good for two runs to make the score 5-2.
The Americans could get nothing going off of Simpson until the fifth inning, when an error in center field allowed a runner to score all the way from first base.
Left fielder Kyle Brunson had a strong day in the field and at the plate for the Americans. Brunson made a twisting catch of a fly ball off the bat of Rapoport in the first inning, and then hit a no-doubt home run over the right field fence in the same frame. Later in the game, he also singled sharply.
Valley out-hit Santa Rosa 7-4 with all seven hits coming from different batters. Shimek and Rapoport were credited with two RBI's each. Gallagher scored twice for Petaluma.
By virtue of the win, the Valley can rest a couple of days until Sunday morning when they play the District 35 championship game. Valley is now 4-0 in the tournament with previous wins over Mark West, Cloverdale and Rincon Valley National.
After one day to regroup, the Americans must win an elimination game on Saturday at Murphy Field to move on in the double-elimination tournament. They will play the winner of the Petaluma American-Rincon Valley National contest. The winner will face Valley at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Should Valley lose, they would come back and play a winner-take-all game on Monday evening.