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Moorpark Downs Reno, 5-3, With Fourth-Inning Rally


SAN BERNARDINO — One glance at the Moorpark Little League lineup and it's obvious who makes the team go: Erik Johnson, a 5-foot-9 center fielder/pitcher who blasted three home runs in the first two Western Regional games.

Against Reno, Nev., in a third-round game Sunday, Johnson's bat was quiet and he struggled on the mound until being lifted in the fourth inning with a sore arm.

Several other players stepped up for Moorpark, however, enabling the 12-year-old team to rally from a two-run deficit and win, 5-3, before 4,100. Moorpark (15-2, 3-0 in the regional) needs two victories to advance to the Little League World Series.

David Burckin pitched three shutout innings in relief of Johnson, mixing a sidearm fastball with an excellent changeup. Reno (9-3, 1-1) stranded nine runners, including at least one in every inning.

Burckin made good pitches when he had to, none better than the one that induced cleanup hitter Chris Regan to ground out with the bases loaded and two out in the fourth.

"Everybody here thinks Johnson is my ace," Moorpark Manager Hector Garcia said. "I never said that. We have four good pitchers."

As well as several clutch hitters. Moorpark followed the same pattern it did in its first two games, waiting until the fourth inning to rally. Three walks set the table, and with two out a single by Blake Sharpe drove in a run, a wild pitch scored another, and a bloop fly by Aaron Garcia that glanced off the glove of center fielder Matt Chambers drove home two more to give Moorpark a 5-3 lead.

Moorpark managed only six singles, two apiece by Sharpe, Lopez and Justin Pizzola.

By staying in the winner's bracket, Moorpark has earned an off day. The team will play in the winner's bracket final Tuesday at 8 p.m. against an opponent to be determined today.

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