California moves on at LLWS; Uganda slips past Oregon

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Powerful Petaluma, Calif., can pitch, too.

Hance Smith's three-run homer in the third broke open a tight game, and reliever-turned-starter Quinton Gago struck out seven over 51/3 innings in a 5-0 win Tuesday night over Fairfield, Conn., in the Little League World Series.

California moves on to the U.S. semifinals on Thursday night. Connecticut was eliminated.

Nuevo Laredo, Mexico also is moving on after a 6-2 victory over Willemstad, Curacao, and Lugazi, Uganda made the biggest splash Tuesday with a win in its tournament finale.

The first team from Africa to qualify for youth baseball's biggest tournament notched another first with a 3-2 victory over Gresham (Oregon) in a consolation game. Uganda dropped its first two games in the series.

In the nightcap, Gago stifled Connecticut.

Fairfield's best chance came in the second when Michael Ghiorzi led off with a single, and an error made it runners on first and second with nobody out.

But third baseman Cole Tomei charged a bunt and started a 5-6-4 double play, and Gago got a strikeout to end the threat.

Earlier Tuesday, 11-year-old Ronald Olaa put Uganda in front when scored from second on a throwing error in the bottom of the fifth.

Manager Henry Odong said he urged his team to just make contact because hitting had been a challenge in South Williamsport.

Uganda plans to play more exhibition games this week, but the players already have become Little League stars. They are being hounded by young autograph-seekers, and Odong was stopped several times by fans for pictures while going to his seat in the stands to watch California's victory.

"I'm thankful we could come here," Odong said. "This win was so great."

Mexico also was feeling pretty good after clinching a spot in Thursday night's international semifinals. Ramon Ballina hit a three-run drive for his third homer of the tournament.

The World Series success is hardly a surprise for the 13-year-old pitcher.

"I hit the ball better in our national tournament, actually," Ballina said through an interpreter.

Mexico played without manager Fernando Rios, who was suspended for two games after a player on his roster did not bat during a 4-3 victory over Taiwan on Monday night.

Coach Cesar Mata took over for Rios.

"I was worried when I get up this morning," Mata said. "We got the kids together and had a long talk in the dorms. They listened and they were very relaxed. I didn't worry about it after that."

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