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Northridge Bats Stymied : Baseball: All-star team is limited to one hit by Minnesota pitcher in 4-2 defeat in the first round of Little League World Series.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Northridge, the only Little League from the Western Region to qualify teams for the World Series three times, is now the only league from the region to lose in the first round three times.

That distinction was earned through a 4-2 loss to Brooklyn Center., Minn., Monday night before 11,000 at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

Right-hander Steve Kruger pitched a one-hitter, allowing only a home run to Northridge catcher Matt Cunningham.

However, this Northridge team has a profound advantage over its brethren from 1975 and ’67, years when World Series play followed a single-elimination format.

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Because of a TV-friendly pool-play format involving eight teams, victories against Middleboro, Mass., today at 10 a.m. PDT and against Springfield, Va., Wednesday could vault Northridge into Thursday’s U.S. championship game.

The two U.S. teams with the best records after pool play meet, and the winner of that game will play in the World Series championship game Saturday.

As with the College World Series, TV--in this case ESPN--wants a championship game, no strings attached.

Should there be tie records after pool play, the team that has allowed the fewest runs advances.

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“We’re still in it, so we’re gonna tell all the wild people to shut up and go to bed so we can get a good night’s sleep,” said Nathaniel Dunlap, the losing pitcher against Brooklyn Center despite being clocked at more than 70 m.p.h. by a radar gun behind home plate.

However, wild pitches in the fourth inning by Dunlap, a 5-foot-11 right-hander, enabled Brooklyn Center (12-1) to erase a 1-0 lead given Northridge (17-1) on Cunningham’s first-inning home run.

The home run was Cunningham’s third in as many at-bats--he hit two in the 10-run sixth inning against Hawaii that gave Northridge a 17-7 victory Friday and the Western Regional title.

In fourth inning against Dunlap, Eric Tauscheck led off with a single to left field and advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on a groundout to second baseman Justin Gentile.

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After holding at third on a bunt single by Jermar Larkins, Tauscheck scored on a wild pitch.

Brooklyn Center added three runs with two out in the fifth to take a 4-1 lead. A double by Chris DeMars was followed by a run-scoring single by Kruger.

Tauscheck followed with a home run to left field, tying into a Dunlap fastball clocked at 71 m.p.h.

Dunlap, who struck out 13 in six innings and was the only pitcher in the four games Monday to reach 70 m.p.h, said that some Brooklyn Center batters were peeking back at Cunningham’s signs.

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“I guess I should throw at their heads when they do that,” Dunlap said, “but I didn’t.”

Northridge brought the winning run to the plate with two out in the bottom of the sixth, but cleanup hitter Spencer Gordon hit a slow roller to Kruger and was thrown out by a step.

Michael Frost walked to open the sixth and advanced when catcher Krissy Wendell made a throwing error to second on a bunt by Gregg Wallis.

With one out, Cunningham hit a ground ball to second baseman Mike Langhoff, who lunged and tagged a diving Wallis.

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“I don’t think he touched (Wallis), but they made such a big deal about not running onto the field and questioning calls, that I didn’t say anything,” said Larry Baca, the Northridge manager.

Frost scored on the play to pull Northridge to within 4-2, but Gordon grounded out after a walk to Dunlap.

“We had our best hitters up with a chance to tie or win the game,” Baca said. “You can’t ask for more than that.”

Excellent defense by Brooklyn Center short-circuited a potential rally in the fourth inning.

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Cunningham walked on four pitches to lead off, and Dunlap drilled a line drive on which center fielder Larkins made a diving catch.

Gordon then smashed a line drive up the middle that Kruger speared at knee level. Cunningham was easily doubled off first.

After Northridge swept through district, section, division and region play without a loss, the test will be to play well after being defeated.

Right-hander Peter Tuber, 3-0 in regional play, will start today for Northridge.

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In other games Monday, Springfield, the Southern Region champion, defeated Middleboro, the Eastern Region champion, 2-1, in eight innings on a solo home run by Ethan Lare.

Middleboro managed two hits against Paul Weishar but played solid defense.

Middleboro’s Kevin Brower pitched a complete game and will be ineligible to pitch against Northridge.

However, his identical twin, Brandon Brower, is expected to start.

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Among international teams, Chinese Taipei defeated Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, 4-1, behind the three-hit pitching of Hsiu-Fan Wu. Maracaibo, Venezuela, defeated Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 5-1, on a one-hitter by Cesar Hidalgo.


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