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LONG BEACH : Long Beach on Verge of Regional Crown : Little League: If the all-stars win tonight, they're off to the World Series again. If they lose, they get another chance Friday.


SAN BERNARDINO — One game from a return trip to the Little League World Series, Long Beach All-Star Coach Jeff Burroughs has a decision to make:

Should he start Alex Defazio, a veteran of last year's world champion team, on the mound, or hard-throwing Brady Werner in the title game of the Western Regional tonight at 8.

Long Beach, which is 17-1 and has won nine games in a row, will face the winner of Wednesday night's losers' bracket game between Danville and Aiea, Hawaii.

If Long Beach wins, it will become the first team to repeat as Western Regional champions and advance to the World Series, which begins Monday in Williamsport, Pa. A loss would force a final game at 8 p.m. Friday.

Burroughs and Manager Larry Lewis were noncommittal about tonight's starting pitcher.

"We'll go back to the room and think about it," Lewis said after Long Beach's 2-0 semifinal victory Tuesday night over San Ramon Valley of Danville.

Odds favor Defazio, who pitched a three-hitter Saturday in a 4-0 quarterfinal victory over Roswell, N.M. Since absorbing the team's only loss of the year--16-1 to Thousand Oaks three weeks ago--Defazio has pitched superbly. He also has been tough at the plate, slugging a grand slam in the all-stars' 13-4 opening-round victory here over Deer Valley of Glendale, Ariz.

Pitching was a great concern when all-star play began in early July, but Burroughs and Lewis have done an excellent job of managing a staff that has posted three consecutive shutouts and has not allowed a run in the last 19 2/3 innings.

In the regional opener against Arizona, the starting pitcher was Sean Burroughs, the ace of the staff. But he pitched only one inning because of a tired arm. Werner pitched the final five innings and got the victory.

Because Burroughs pitched only one inning in the opener, he did not fall under Little League rules that prohibit players from pitching back-to-back games. That allowed him to pitch a 3-0 second-round win over Spring Valley, Nev., and Tuesday night he threw a no-hitter and struck out 12.

The left-handed hitting Burroughs led off Tuesday's game with a solo home run to left field off Danville ace Andy Cook, and scored the second run in the fifth inning on a double by Timmy Lewis. Burroughs had been intentionally walked with the bases empty and two outs.

"It kind of makes me mad," said Burroughs about his intentional walk, one of two he received after the home run.

Lewis has repeatedly said he is not happy with that strategy. "These are kids," he said. "Let them play."

About 12,000 spectators, one of the largest crowds in regional history, saw the game Tuesday night, and a possible record crowd of more than 14,000 is expected for the final.

Long Beach fans, who infuriated Danville supporters Tuesday night with signs that read, "Let's Repeat, Long Beach," are hoping the regional can be wrapped up tonight because of the difficulty in traveling to rural central Pennsylvania.

They have been driving travel agents crazy all week. A late finish Friday--if a final game is needed--would send dozens scrambling to get back to Long Beach to pack for a flight from Los Angeles early Saturday.

Road to the Finals

The record of the Long Beach All-Stars:

District Tournament (at Long Beach)

Long Beach 13, Plaza 0

Long Beach 11, Greater Bellflower 0

Long Beach 1, Lakewood/Cerritos 0

Long Beach 11, Los Altos 4

Long Beach 7, Los Altos 0

Sectional Tournament (at Hacienda Heights)

Long Beach 14, La Palma

Continental 0

Long Beach 16, Westminster 1

Long Beach 1, Puente Hills 0

Southern California Division Tournament (as San Diego)

Long Beach 13 Santee Santana 0

Thousand Oaks 16, Long Beach 1

Long Beach 2, South Mission Viejo 1

Long Beach 4, West Covina 2

Long Beach 5, Thousand Oaks 1

Long Beach 13, Woodland Hills 4

Long Beach 14, Woodland Hills 5

Western Regional Tournament (at San Bernardino)

Long Beach 13, Glendale, Ariz. 4

Long Beach 3, Las Vegas, Nev. 0

Long Beach 4, Roswell, N.M. 0

Long Beach 2, Danville San Ramon Valley 0

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