California Wins Little League World Series, Beating Japan 2-1

Huntington Beach, California, won baseball’s Little League World Series by beating Japan 2-1 with a game-ending, run-scoring single.

Ocean View Little League in Huntington Beach became the sixth U.S. team in the past seven years to win the title as Nick Pratto delivered a bases-loaded hit with two outs in the sixth inning at Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The start of yesterday’s championship game was pushed back three hours because of Tropical Storm Irene, which began battering the East Coast yesterday. The consolation game, between teams from Mexico and Montana, was canceled.

Pratto had three of California’s five hits, while winning pitcher Braydon Salzman held international champion Hamamatsu Minami Little League of Hamamatsu City, Japan, to one unearned run and three hits over six innings. The 13-year-old Salzman had nine strikeouts and didn’t issue a walk.

“He pitched the greatest game of his life,” said California manager Jeff Pratto, Nick’s father. “He was the right guy for the job -- a pitcher who is very efficient, able to change speeds and able to hit his spots, which is what you need to beat Japan.”

Salzman walked to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning and California loaded the bases with one out after a single and a fielding error by Japan. Although Salzman was forced out at home plate for the second out, Pratto, California’s 12-year-old first baseman, followed with a single to centerfield to score the winning run in front of a crowd of 20,168.

“I was ahead in the count, and I was just looking for a good pitch to hit, to drive, and I got it,” said Pratto, adding that he was nervous walking up to the plate. “But once I got in the box, I just started to calm down, get my head straight and see the ball.”

Japan took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning as Seiya Fujita led off with a single, moved to third base on an error and scored on a fielder’s choice.

California tied it in the bottom of the inning as Hagen Danner hit a solo home run.

Huntington Beach is the second team from California to win the Little League title for 11-, 12- and 13-year olds in the past three years. Park View Little League in Chula Vista won the 2009 championship, while the Edogawa Minami All-Stars from Tokyo last year gave Japan its first title since 2003.

Japan’s representative made it back to the final by beating Seguro Social Little League of Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, 5-2 yesterday. California captured the U.S. title with an 11-2 win over a team from Billings, Montana, avenging an earlier 1-0 loss to the Northwest representative.

Huntington Beach outscored its opponents 23-2 at the Little League World Series after outscoring teams 41-6 in the West Regional to reach Williamsport.

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