California pulls away after Florida is denied home run

Updated: August 24, 2005, 11:40 PM ET
Associated Press

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Talk about a net gain for Rancho Buena Vista.

A disputed call went its way, and now the team from California is on the way to the United States title game at the Little League World Series.

An apparent three-run home run by Maitland, Fla., was instead ruled a double and that was just the break Rancho Buena Vista, Calif., needed in a 6-2 semifinal victory Wednesday night.

"We play all year setting goals," Rancho Buena Vista manager Marty Miller said. "Now our goal is to get to the [World Series] championship game."

In an international semifinal game Wednesday, Japan was an 11-0 winner over Surrey, British Columbia.

Guam will play defending series champion Willemstad, Curacao, and West Oahu of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, will face Lafayette, La., in the other semis on Thursday.

The world championship is Sunday.

The controversial play came in the bottom of the third with Maitland down 2-0. With two runners on and two out, Mike Tomlinson laced a line drive off winning pitcher Kalen Pimentel that hit about a foot up the netting attached to the left-field foul pole, hit the top of the wall and bounced back into play.

Tomlinson thought he homered, but the umps immediately ruled the hit a two-run double. Maitland coach Sid Cash dashed out to argue, but -- without the benefit of replay -- the call was not reversed.

"It just hurt the momentum for us," Cash said. "I think if we're up 3-2, we'd have the lead and then see how they'd respond. It has an effect on everything."

Little League spokesman Lance Van Auken issued a statement of support for left field umpire Steve Ouellet, saying, "It is very easy to make a call after seeing a replay at various angles. Even Major League Baseball umpires make mistakes."

Cash refused to let Ouellet off the hook.

"For him not to come out and look at it, he has no base calls to make," Cash said.

Miller was too busy celebrating -- and talking about potential U.S. championship game opponents -- to worry about the call.

"I really don't want to get into the umpire situation," he said. "The tape will speak for itself."

The disputed call came back to hurt Southeast champ Maitland (2-2) even more in the fourth.

Rancho Buena Vista's Reed Reznicek walked and went to second on a sacrifice bunt. Johnny Dee's single was bobbled by the center fielder, allowing Reznicek to score for a 3-2 lead. Dee was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double.

Maitland threatened again in the fourth, putting runners on first and second with one out, but left them stranded. The lost home run was too much for Maitland to overcome.

"We needed that momentum to make them come after us," Cash said.

Rancho Buena Vista (4-0) scored three runs in the sixth to seal its 24th straight win.

Pimentel, who has two grand slams and tied a Little League World Series record for a six-inning game with 18 strikeouts, struck out nine and walked two in a complete game.

Dante Bichette Jr. took the loss for Maitland, giving up six runs -- four earned -- and striking out four in 5 1/3 innings.

Maitland coaches Dante Bichette and Mike Stanley never won a World Series championship in the major leagues and they're going to have to wait to win one in Little League.

Rancho Buena Vista went ahead 1-0 in the second when Royce Copeland doubled, moved to third on a passed ball, then scored on a passed ball which made it a tough inning for catcher Kyle Hamner.

Nathan Lewis' bloop single in the third gave the West region champs a 2-0 lead.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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