Panama, California advance at LLWS

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Hance Smith hit two homers, including a first-inning grand slam, to lead Petaluma, Calif., to an 11-1, five-inning victory over San Antonio on Thursday night and a berth in the U.S. championship game in the Little League World Series.

California will play Goodlettsville, Tenn., on Saturday.

Starter Danny Marzo, already a California hero for hitting a game-ending homer this week, came up big on the mound with 11 strikeouts in five innings.

He was gracious on the mound, too, after Texas' Jordan Cardenas went deep in the third. The 12-year-old Marzo greeted Cardenas with a high-five with his glove hand as Cardenas jogged down the third-base line.

Earlier Thursday, Aguadulce, Panama edged Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, 2-1 to advance to the international final against Japan.

California didn't have quite as difficult a time against Texas, the game ending in the bottom of the fifth due to Little League's 10-run rule.

The Petaluma boys managed just two hits off Texas pitching in the decisive six-run first — but both balls landed over the outfield fence.

California loaded the bases on three walks. A wild pitch brought home the first run, and the bases were loaded again after Austin Paretti reached first on a dropped third strike.

Smith then hit a 2-2 pitch that just cleared the wall in left-center 225 feet away.

"Petaluma! Petaluma!" shouted California's fans.

Two pitches later, Quinton Gago went deep, too, and left no doubt about his shot. It easily cleared the wall in left and landed amongst fans prerched on the grassy hill beyond the outfield.

It was such an impressive shot that even Smith stopped to admire the blast from the dugout, his eyes widening as the ball carried under the night sky.

But Smith wasn't done himself.

Another homer to left in the third earned the 13-year-old slugger another set of pats on the helmet from happy teammates who greeted him at the plate.

Marzo allowed just two hits and a walk, and retired the last seven batters he faced.

California has a chance to avenge its only loss in South Williamsport — a 9-6 defeat to the Tennessee crew from Goodlettsville on Sunday. Texas was eliminated.

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