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Classic championship clash

It wasn't classically played, but it will forever be marked as one of Petaluma's classic Little League games.

After eight innings and more than three hours of drama, Whitman Insurance from the Petaluma Valley Little League won the Petaluma Major City Championships win a 9-7 victory over Athletic Edge from the Petaluma American League. It was believed to be the first championship game in the history of the City Championships to be decided in extra innings. It was certainly the first ever played under lights, as the teams took advantage of the newly illuminated Lucchesi Park major league diamond.

On one level, the game was typical Little League with missed balls, miscues and missed opportunities.

On another level, it was a tense, heart-pounding thriller marked by clutch hits, clutch defense and clutch pitching.

Both sides could point to potential heroes, but when it was finally finished, the difference was Whitman lead-off hitter Connor Klemenok who had the game of a lifetime. He highlighted a five-run Whitman second inning with a grand slam home run, put his team ahead with a clutch single in the sixth inning and, when those two blows weren't enough against the gutsy Athletic Edge team, he smashed a game-winning two-run homer in the eighth inning.

In between, he pitched 4 1/3 innings of strong relief to earn the pitching victory. For the game, he had three hits, drove in seven runs and scored two.

It took every bit of his and his teammates' efforts to finally subdue an Athletic Edge team that refused to give in.

Athletic Edge was the first to strike, scoring twice in the first inning when Tony Dachev sliced a clutch two-run double into right field. The ball was nearly grabbed by the Whitman right fielder, who made a one-handed stab, but failed to snare the ball.

Christopher Sanchez slammed a double of his own earlier in the inning to start a big three-hit, three-run game.

Whitman looked like it might put the game away early when Klemenok shot his slam low over the center field fence to highlight a five-run second inning.


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