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This Time, Dunlap Stops Springfield : Little League: Pitcher throws one-hitter as Northridge wins, 3-0, to reach championship game.


WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — In a game a teammate said he was born to pitch, Nathaniel Dunlap bore down, throwing a one-hitter that gave Northridge a 3-0 victory over Springfield, Va., and the U.S. Little League baseball championship Thursday.

A three-run homer by Spencer Gordon in the first inning gave Dunlap a cushion, and the 5-foot-11 right-hander carried a no-hitter into the sixth and final inning before settling for a one-hit shutout in front of 20,000.

Northridge (20-1, 3-1 in Series play) will be the third consecutive team from Southern California to represent the United States in the World Series championship game. Long Beach is two-time World Series champion.

Maracaibo, Venezuela, defeated Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 10-1, to win the international championship and will play Northridge on Saturday at 12:40 p.m. PDT. Maracaibo is 4-0 in Series play.

"Our goal all along was to win the U.S. title, and that is accomplished," said Larry Baca, Northridge's manager. "I am gratified we are playing Saturday and it will be fun, but it is icing on the cake."

Dunlap's effort was Northridge's second consecutive one-hit shutout over Springfield. Justin Gentile had held the South Region champions hitless after the first batter singled in a 2-0 victory Wednesday.

"This was probably the most important game of Nathaniel's life," Gentile said. "Everybody tells him he was born to pitch, and he was born to pitch this game for us."

Paul Weishar hit a sharp single to right field with one out in the sixth, ending a hitless streak of 11 1/3 innings against Northridge pitching.

Eric Miller followed Weishar with a ground ball to shortstop Matt Fisher that hit the seam between the grass and dirt and bounced off his chest for an error, bringing the tying run to the plate. However, Dunlap struck out Pat Malatino and Ethan Lare--Springfield's best hitter--to end the game.

"I told Ethan to look for breaking balls, and they out-foxed us by throwing the heater," said George Lare, Springfield's coach and Ethan's father.

Why would Dunlap have thrown anything else?

Standing 46 feet from home plate, he throws a 74-m.p.h. fastball.

"You end a game with a fastball, and you end it with a strikeout," Dunlap said. "You blow it past him. That's the way it's supposed to be."

Springfield's only other baserunners came on hit batsmen in the second and fifth innings. Dunlap struck out 10 and walked none. He has 23 strikeouts and one walk in 12 innings of Series play.

Meanwhile, no Northridge batters struck out against Springfield pitchers Mike Fratoe and Miller. Gentile doubled twice, Cassel singled twice and Gregg Wallis doubled.

"I thought we had a chance to run up the score after the first inning, but they played good defense," Baca said.

It turned out that Gordon's home run provided the game's only offense.

The Northridge cleanup hitter had been one for nine in the Series before the homer, and he had made the final out with two runners on base in a 4-2 loss to Brooklyn Center, Minn., on Monday.

After that game, Gordon was devastated, telling his parents that he was responsible for the loss.

"He is as redeemed as a kid could ever be," said Eric Gordon, Spencer's father.

Little League Notes

Peter Tuber will pitch for Northridge against Maracaibo. Tuber, a 5-9 right-hander, defeated Middleboro, Mass., on Tuesday, 6-4, striking out 13. He was perhaps Northridge's most valuable player in last week's Western Regional tournament, winning three games, including the final. Justin Gentile will be available in relief, but Nathaniel Dunlap will be ineligible to pitch. Little League tournament rules stipulate that a pitcher who throws more than one inning in a game cannot pitch in the team's next game.

Maracaibo probably will start Cesar Hidalgo, who struck out 15 in a 4-1, two-hit victory over Taiwan on Tuesday. Hidalgo was clocked by a radar gun at 74 m.p.h.

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