Ocean View's Hagen Danner connects for a home run against Clinton… (Tim Shaffer / Reuters )
Reporting from South Williamsport, Pa. — Bigger than his three hits in three at-bats, his monstrous home run, his 12 strikeouts, his game-winning pitching performance, Hagen Danner offered something even larger Thursday night at the Little League World Series.
Behind Danner's all-around excellence, the Ocean View Little League team from Huntington Beach beat Mid-Atlantic representative Clinton County, Pa., 2-0 in front of 31,697 at Lamade Stadium.
For its effort, Ocean View will get a second chance to beat the Big Sky Little League team from Billings, Mont., representing the Northwest Region in the U.S. championship game, scheduled for noon PDT Saturday. At 9 a.m., Mexico is to meet Japan in the international championship game. The winners are to play Sunday at noon PDT for the World Series title.
Danner, a 5-foot-7, 127-pound 12-year-old, was caressing the ball he had hit for the home run a half-hour after the game ended.
"It was a fastball over the plate," Danner said of the pitch he hit off Clinton County starter Alex Garbrick, the manager's son. "It felt good off the bat and it felt good to get on the board."
After scoring 21 runs in its first two wins at the Series, Ocean View was shut out, 1-0, by Montana on Wednesday and held scoreless for the first two innings Thursday.
The home run ball was the last pitch thrown by Garbrick, but Ocean View didn't make much of a dent in Clinton County's relief pitchers either.
Ocean View scored its second run in the top of the fourth when Christian Catano hit a one-out double and pinch-hitter Ryo Takada followed with a single that went all the way to the outfield wall. Takada slipped when he started to round first, something he said had happened to him before.
But Catano scored, and when Danner followed up in the bottom of the fourth by striking out the side, it seemed evident that Danner wouldn't need much more support.
After getting an out in the sixth, Danner reached his pitch limit for the game and Manager Jeff Pratto gave Braydon Salzman a big morale boost. Salzman had given up the walk-off home run to Montana and he did give up one single to Clinton County, but nothing more dangerous.
"I was shaking out there," Salzman said. "I didn't want to give up a walk-off again." Salzman smiled when he said that. A night earlier he had hung his head when he threw a hanging curveball that decided the game.
Danner also said he made a conscious effort to block out the noise from the large, partisan crowd.
"I just told myself, 'What crowd?' I was thinking to myself there was no crowd, no noise. I heard the noise a little but I wasn't really getting bothered by it."
Clinton County Manager Bill Garbrick left impressed by Danner.
"I knew his potential," Garbrick said. "I heard about some of the things he did in the regional tournament. I knew what he could do."
And though Garbrick would not make predictions about what might happen Saturday, he did give up something.
"It surprised me a little bit when Montana beat them," Garbrick said. But he quickly followed by saying, "I wouldn't count Montana out."