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Gentile Keeps Springfield Off Balance : Little League: Right-hander uses an effective changeup to pitch a one-hitter as Northridge wins, 2-0, to advance to U.S. championship game.


WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — A pitch called the Agony produced pure ecstasy for Northridge on Wednesday night in the Little League World Series, vaulting the Western Region representative into today's U.S. championship game.

Bolstered by the confidence of his manager, Justin Gentile pitched a one-hitter to lift Northridge to a 2-0 victory over Springfield, Va., before 17,500.

Gentile, a right-hander, mixed fastballs with a straight changeup he has affectionately titled the Agony to strike out 13. Eric Miller singled to lead off the first inning but Springfield had only three other baserunners--on two walks and an infield error.

Northridge (19-1, 2-1 in series pool play) will face Springfield (17-2, 2-1) again today at 1:30 PDT for the U.S. championship. Maracaibo, Venezuela, and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, will meet today at 10:30 a.m. for the International championship.

The winners will meet for the championship Saturday at 1 p.m.

Nathaniel Dunlap will start today for Northridge. Dunlap, by the way, also throws the Agony. In fact, he taught it to Gentile two years ago.

"They both grip it with their thumb and pinky finger, and their other fingers are off the ball," said Jon Gentile, Justin's father. "The way Justin throws over the top, the ball has the same rotation as his fastball but tumbles down like a drop pitch."

The pitch, in fact, was mistaken for a curve by several onlookers, including Springfield Manager Jim Hamilton.

"That kid fooled us all day with that slow curve," he said. "I don't know when I've seen so many strikeouts."

Dunlap, a 5-foot-11 right-hander, was eligible to pitch Wednesday. And his teammates knew it.

"I went to (Manager Larry Baca) last night and told him that the other guys wanted Nathaniel to pitch, and that it was OK with me," Gentile said. "But he told me that he had confidence in me."

Gentile was not able to complete the first inning of the Western Regional final against Hawaii last week, leaving with the bases loaded and two out after giving up three runs. Northridge rallied to win, 17-7.

"That was the only time he's had trouble all year," Baca said. "The kid can pitch, and I told him that when he came to me last night."

Gentile also figured into Northridge's first run. In the third inning he followed a single by Michael Frost and a fielder's choice by Gregg Wallis with a sharp single past third, setting up a run-scoring single by Dunlap.

Northridge added a run in the sixth when Matt Fisher scored on a fly to center field by Frost. Fisher had singled with one out and advanced to third on a single by Matt Cassel.

Gentile struck out at least two in every inning, and no runner reached second base after Miller advanced on a wild pitch in the first.


In international pool play, Maracaibo won all three games, including a 3-0 victory over Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday. In somewhat of a surprise, Dhahran defeated Taiwan, 3-2, to finish 2-1 in pool play. Taiwan finished 1-2 and Glace Bay was 0-3.

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