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Dunlap Sparks Northridge, 3-0 : Little League: He gives up one hit in U.S. championship victory. Gordon hits three-run homer.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a game his teammates said he was born to pitch, Nathaniel Dunlap threw a one-hitter to give Northridge the United States Little League championship.

A three-run home run by Spencer Gordon in the first inning provided Dunlap a cushion, and the 5-foot-11 right-hander carried a no-hitter into the final inning before settling for a 3-0 victory over Springfield, Va. Thursday before 20,000 at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

Northridge (20-1, 3-1 in series play) will be the third consecutive team from Southern California to represent the United States in the World Series championship game. Long Beach is two-time World Series champion.

Maracaibo, Venezuela, defeated Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 10-1, to win the international championship and will face Northridge on Saturday at 12:40 p.m. PDT. The game will be televised on Channel 7. Venezuela is 4-0 in series play.

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“Our goal all along was to win the U.S. title, and that is accomplished,” said Larry Baca, the Northridge manager. “I am gratified we are playing Saturday and it will be fun, but it is icing on the cake.”

Dunlap’s effort was Northridge’s second consecutive one-hit shutout over Springfield. Justin Gentile held the South Region champion hitless after the first batter singled in a 2-0 victory Wednesday.

“This was probably the most important game of Nathaniel’s life,” Gentile said. “Everybody tells him he was born to pitch, and he was born to pitch this game for us.”

Paul Weishar hit a sharp single to right field with one out in the sixth against Dunlap, ending a hitless streak of 11 1/3 innings against Northridge pitching.

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Eric Miller followed with a ground ball to shortstop Matt Fisher that hit the lip of the infield grass and bounced off Fisher’s chest for an error, bringing the tying run to the plate. However, Dunlap struck out Pat Malatino then Ethan Lare--Springfield’s best hitter--to end the game.

“I told Ethan to look for breaking balls, and they outfoxed us by throwing the heater,” said George Lare, the Virginia coach and Ethan’s father.

Why would the 5-foot-11 Dunlap throw anything else? Standing 46 feet from home plate, he throws a 74 m.p.h. fastball. He is the equivalent of a 7-foot-9 pitcher throwing 97 m.p.h. from the regulation 60 feet 6 inches.

“You end a game with a fastball, and you end it with a strikeout,” Dunlap said. “You blow it past him. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

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Dunlap, who hit two batters, struck out 10 and walked none. He has 23 strikeouts and one walk in 12 series innings.

Fisher and first baseman Matt Cassel made nice fielding plays for Northridge, which has made only two errors in four series games.

No Northridge batters struck out. Gentile doubled twice, Cassel singled twice and Gregg Wallis doubled. Northridge left seven runners on base.

“I thought we had a chance to run up the score after the first inning, but they played good defense,” Baca said.

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Gordon’s home run provided the game’s only offense.

The Northridge cleanup hitter had been one for nine in the series before stepping to the plate in the first inning, and he had made the final out with runners on base in a 4-2 loss to Brooklyn Center, Minn., on Monday.

After that game, Gordon was devastated, telling his parents that he was responsible for the loss.

“He is as redeemed as a kid could ever be,” said Eric Gordon, Spencer’s father.

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And Northridge is redeemed as well, having followed the opening loss with three consecutive victories.

Baca, who had criticized the pool-play format before the tournament began, has had a change of heart.

“The way it worked out is fine,” he said. “No complaints.”


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