No Ace but Victory Was in Cards for Northridge : Little League: Valley squad advances, 10-0, behind Gentile.
The opponent was Las Vegas, but the gambler was Larry Baca, manager of the Northridge Little League 12-year-old all-stars.
Baca did not start staff ace Nathaniel Dunlap on Saturday night for the second consecutive game, giving the ball instead to Justin Gentile.
Gentile hit the jackpot, allowing only three singles in five innings of Northridge’s 10-0 victory in the second round of the Western Regional tournament before 6,500.
Gentile, the Northridge leadoff batter, also hit two home runs and drove in three runs.
Gentile, a right-hander, overcame early wildness, leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. He struck out 10 and walked two.
“With this staff I don’t have to pitch a guy and have to come back with him on one day’s rest,” Baca said. “It’s nice to have this luxury, and it especially helps when we hit this well.”
After scoring single runs in the first and second innings with the help of five wild pitches, Northridge (14-0) exploded for three in the third and three in the fourth.
Matt Cassel followed Matt Fisher’s run-scoring double with a long home run to center field in the third, and Gentile hit a solo home run with one out in the fourth. Four of the next five batters hit safely, including a double by Cassel and singles by Matt Cunningham, Dunlap and Fisher.
Gentile hit a two-run home run in the fifth to complete the scoring.
Northridge has outscored its opponents, 193-33, in tournament play, one reason Baca feels comfortable keeping Dunlap in his hip pocket. Peter Tuber allowed only one hit in five innings of Northridge’s 14-2 first-round victory over Anchorage, Alaska.
Dunlap, a 5-foot-11 right-hander with an overpowering fastball, has so far been nothing more than a dominant mop-up pitcher, retiring the side in order in the sixth innings of both blowouts. He struck out two against Las Vegas (7-2).
Northridge will face New Mexico on Monday at 8 p.m. in a quarterfinal, and Baca says . . . he has not decided on a starting pitcher.
“I may go with Tuber again,” Baca said. “He didn’t throw too many pitches (Friday).”