LITTLE LEAGUE WESTERN REGIONAL : Dunlap Powers Northridge, 3-1
Power scored a big victory over finesse Tuesday night at the Little League Western Regional tournament.
Nathaniel Dunlap outdueled Schafer Magana to give Northridge a 3-1 victory over Taylorsville, Utah, before 8,200 and a berth in the final of the double-elimination tournament.
Northridge (16-0, 4-0 in regional play), the only unbeaten team left, will play the team that emerges from the loser’s bracket Friday at 5:30 p.m. A victory will send Northridge to the World Series in Williamsport, Pa. A defeat would force a second game 30 minutes after the end of the first.
Dunlap, a 5-foot-11 right-hander, used a dominant fastball to hold Utah (9-1, 3-1) to two hits. He struck out eight and walked three.
Magana, a 4-10 right-hander, relied on a slow curve that baffled Northridge. He struck out seven and allowed five hits, all singles.
But constantly throwing a curve in Little League has more than the obvious drawback of placing undue strain on a 12-year-old arm.
“He can’t depend on his curve with runners on base because anything in the dirt allows the runners to move up,” said Matt Cunningham, the Northridge catcher.
Yet depend on the curve Magana did, throwing 67 curves among 91 total pitches.
Six of them rolled past catcher Paul Buck with runners on base, and two Northridge runs scored on wild pitches.
Michael Frost scored the first Northridge run in the third inning on a wild pitch.
The run appeared to be all Dunlap might need as he allowed only one baserunner through 4 1/3 innings. However, an error, a single and two walks tied the score and left the bases loaded with one out in the fifth.
Dunlap pitched out of it, jamming Cody Gray with a fastball that was popped up to second baseman Justin Gentile, who fired to Gregg Wallis at third to double off Mike Lewis and end the inning.
Northridge scored twice in the bottom of the inning to put the game away.
Peter Tuber walked, and pinch-runner Michael Nesbit advanced to second and third on wild pitches. Nesbit scored when Gentile reached first on a throwing error by third baseman Chris Mower.
Gentile eventually scored on a wild pitch.
“I felt good the whole way,” Dunlap said. “The umpire squeezed the strike zone in the fifth, but I never lost confidence.”
Northridge undoubtedly will be oozing confidence Friday.
“We’re feeling real good,” Frost said. “This was supposed to be the toughest game.”