Ocean View keeps title hopes alive

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Bigger than his three hits in three at-bats, his monstrous home run, his 12 strikeouts and his game-winning pitching performance, Hagen Danner offered something even larger Thursday night at the Little League Baseball World Series.

A smile.

Behind Danner's all-around excellence, the Ocean View Majors All-Star team from Huntington Beach beat Mid-Atlantic representative Clinton County, Pa., 2-0 in front of a crowd of 31,697 at Lamade Stadium.

For its effort, Ocean View will get a second chance to beat the Big Sky Little League team from Billings, Mont., representing the Northwest Region, in the U.S. championship game at noon PDT Saturday. At 9 a.m., Mexico will meet Japan in the International championship game. The winners will play at noon PDT Sunday for the Little League World Series title.

 Danner, a 5-foot-7, 127-pound 12-year-old, was caressing the ball he had pounded for the home run even a half hour after the game ended.

"It was a fastball over the plate," Danner said of the pitch he hit off Clinton County starter Alex Garbrick. "It felt good off the bat and it felt good to get on the board."

After scoring 21 runs in its first two wins here, Ocean View had been shut out 1-0 by Big Sky on Wednesday and for the first two innings Thursday.

 The home run ball was the last pitch thrown by Garbrick, but Ocean View didn't make much of a dent in Clinton County's relief pitchers, either.

Ocean View scored a second run in the top of the fourth when Christian Catano walloped a one-out double and pinch-hitter Ryo Takada followed with a single that went all the way to the outfield wall. Takada slipped when he started to round second, something Takada said had happened to him before.

But Catano scored and when Danner followed up in the bottom of the fourth by striking out the side, it seemed evident that Danner wouldn't need much more support.

After getting an out in the sixth, Danner reached his pitch count for the night and Manager Jeff Pratto gave Braydon Salzman a big moral boost. Salzman had allowed the walk-off home run a day earlier in the 1-0 loss, and he did give up a single to Clinton County, but nothing more dangerous.

"I was shaking out there," Salzman said. "I didn't want to give up a walk-off again."

Salzman smiled when he said that. A night earlier he had hung his head when he threw a hanging curveball that decided the game.

Danner also said he made a conscious effort to block out the noise from the large and partisan crowd.

"I just told myself, 'What crowd?' I was thinking to myself there was no crowd, no noise. I heard the noise a little, but I wasn't really getting bothered by it."

Clinton County Manager Bill Garbrick was impressed by Danner.

"I knew his potential," Bill Garbrick said. "I heard about some of the things he did in the regional tournament. I knew what he could do."

And while Bill Garbrick wouldn't make predictions on what might happen Saturday, he did give up something.

"It surprised me a little bit when Montana beat them," he said. But he quickly followed by saying, "I wouldn't count Montana out."

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