Ocean View advances to Little League World Series championship
On the strength of a two-run home run by third baseman Dylan Palmer, three hits from catcher Hagen Danner and a sterling pitching performance by Nick Pratto, the Ocean View Little League team, from Huntington Beach and representing the West region, beat the Northwest team from Billings, Mont., 11-2 Saturday at Lamade Stadium in the Little League World Series U.S. championship game.
Ocean View will play Japan -- which beat Mexico, 5-2, Saturday -- in the championship game, at 9 a.m. Pacific time Sunday for the Little League World Series title.
Ocean View scored in the top of the first after Danner led off with a double, went to third on a wild pitch from Montana starter Patrick Zimmer and to home on a Pratto ground out to first.
Steven Kotkosky had a two-out double for the West team, but Jason Mayorga struck out looking to end the inning.
Pratto, the starter for Huntington Beach, struck out two in the bottom of the first after getting leadoff hitter Zimmer to ground out on the first pitch of the game.
The big moment for Ocean View in the top of the second inning came after left fielder Ryo Takada was hit by a pitch.
After Braydon Salzman lined out to right, third baseman Dylan Palmer, batting eighth, hammered a home run to center field. It was the second home run of the series for Ocean View, and the 3-0 lead with Pratto pitching felt large.
Danner also singled in the inning, his fifth hit in his last five at-bats, but Trevor Windisch left him at first by striking out.
But momentum briefly left Ocean View in the bottom of the second. After Pratto struck out Ben Askelson, who had hit a walk-off game-winning home run against the West earlier in the tournament, Andy Maehl singled and scored on a play during which Danner and Takada made errors.
Pratto saved a worse inning by getting center fielder Brock MacDonald to hit into a double play.
Ocean View left the bases loaded in the top of the third and wasted back-to-back singles by Pratto and Kotkosky to lead off the inning. Salzman popped out to third, and Palmer popped out to the short stop to end the inning with the West still leading, 3-1.
The West scored twice more in the top of the fourth, even as rain began to fall. Pratto had a two-RBI double as the big hit to put his team up 5-1, and in the top of the fifth, Ocean View added another pair of runs to gain a 7-1 advantage. Salzman had an RBI single in the inning.
Pratto struck out the first two batters he faced in the fifth, and after an error by second baseman Windisch, Pratto got Montana’s Zimmer to ground out and end the fifth. Ocean View's 7-1 advantage grew to 11-1 after a four-run sixth that had only one hit, an RBI single from Palmer.
And Pratto struck out Connor Kieckbusch, Pratto's 10th strikeout of the game, to start the sixth inning. Pratto reached his pitch limit and left to a standing ovation from the Huntington Beach fans.
Salzman replaced Pratto and gave up a home run to Montana’s Cole McKenzie. Salzman pounded his fist in anger, and after giving up a walk, he went back in the field, and Windisch got the final out.
-- Diane Pucin, reporting from South Williamsport, Pa.
Photo: Ocean View starter Nick Pratto delivers a pitch against Billings, Mont., in the first inning of the U.S. championship game on Saturday in South Williamsports, Pa. Credit: Gene Puskar / Associated Press