SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Powerful Petaluma, Calif., can pitch, too.
Hance Smith’s three-run homer in the third broke open a tight game, and reliever-turned-starter Quinton Gago struck out seven over 5⅓ innings in a 5-0 win Tuesday night over Fairfield, Conn., in the Little League World Series.
California moves on to the U.S. semifinals on Thursday night. Connecticut was eliminated.
The 12-year-old Gago said it was the best performance of his young career, even though he was a little nervous when the night started.
“In the back of my mind, I said ‘I am not a starter,’” Gago said as he held on to an ice pack strapped to his left shoulder. “But right as I took the mound, I felt it went away.”
Fairfield’s best chance came in the second when Michael Ghiorzi led off with a single, and an error made it runners on first and second with nobody out.
But third baseman Cole Tomei charged a bunt and started a 5-6-4 double play, and Gago got a strikeout to end the threat.
“That was completely awesome,” Gago said about the double play.
MEXICO 6, CURACAO 2
Ramon Ballina hit a three-run homer and Mexico stayed alive with a victory over Curacao .
Ballina’s drive to right-center during Mexico’s five-run third inning was his third homer of the series. Joel Turrubiates also had a tying RBI single.
Ballina also came on in relief in the fourth and allowed just one hit to pick up the save.
Mexico played without manager Fernando Rios, who was suspended for two games after a player on his roster did not bat during a 4-3 victory over Taiwan on Monday night.
UGANDA 3, GRESHAM ORE. 2
Uganda is heading home with a victory in the Little League World Series.
The first team from Africa to play in the event beat Gresham, Ore., 3-2 in a consolation game.
Players Justine Makisimu, Ronald Olaa, Daniel Alio and Felix Enzama all say they thought they could win going into the game.
The game remained scoreless until Oregon broke the tie in the top of the fourth inning with a triple down the right field line resulting in a pair runs. Then Uganda tied the game on consecutive singles. In the fifth inning, it took the lead and held it tight.