Bradley Smith pitched well and hit even better, helping Petaluma down Fairfield, 6-4, in the first game of the 2012 Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA on Thursday.
The Nationals took the field under sunny skies, a day after rain battered the area, and facing a hostile crowd. They did not disappoint.
Petaluma, of the West Region, scored first and held off New England Region's Fairfield, Conn., 6-4, in the double elimination tournament.
Smith, who had four hits and drove in three runs, gave Petaluma the early lead, driving home Logan Douglas for the first run of the game in the first inning.
After New England tied the game, Smith (6-3, 183) was at it again in the top of the third inning. Douglas hit a single, stole second base and scored when Smith drove a home run into the bushes behind center field, giving the West a 3-1 advantage.
Smith, who struck out seven and walked one over four innings, pitched in three games during the Nationals run in the West Regional.
In the fifth, catcher Austin Paretti (5-0, 85) hit a long single to bring home two more runs and give Petaluma a 5-2 edge. Even baking in the August sun, family and friends erupted into ecstatic cheers.
There was a tense moment at the start of the fifth inning when New England pitcher Ryan Meury was struck in the face with pitch.
The crowd went silent as his coaches and event medical staff surrounded him. After a few long minutes, Meury finally stood and walked off the field, accompanied by the crowd’s relieved applause.
Fairfield drew within 5-4 in the bottom of the fifth but an RBI from Danny Marzo scored Cole Tomei put Petaluma ahead, 6-4, heading into the final half-inning of play.
Andrew White, who earned the save, finished the game in style, getting a double play after walking the leadoff batter, and a strikeout to end it, setting Petaluma up for a long and successful run at this year's World Series.
It was hard to tell who was more thrilled with the win, the players or their parents, who jumped from their seats en masse as the final strike was called, while the boys rushed together to celebrate, huge smiles painted on their faces.
The West will play their next game on Sunday at 11 a.m. against Tennessee, a 12-1 winner over Nebraska. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN and ESPN3.com.
Smith's four hits matched the four hits he had during all six games of the West Regional.
White recorded his first save after winning twice in regional play. He pitched in all six games of the regional.