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LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES California reaches U.S. title game



Published: Thu, August 25, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Rancho Buena Vista capitalized on a disputed call to eliminate Maitland, Fla.

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) -- 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 the break Rancho Buena Vista 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 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 today's other semis.

The world championship is Sunday.

Controversy

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 manager 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 affect 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.

Japan 11, Canada 0

Takuya Sakamoto tossed one-hit ball over four shutout innings, and Yusuke Taira hit a two-run homer and drove in four runs to lead Japan over Surrey, British Columbia.

"This is the hitting I was hoping for through the whole series," Chiba City manager Hirofumi Oda said through an interpreter.

The game was stopped after Surrey hit in the fifth inning because of the 10-run mercy rule.

Sakamoto was sharp in his second start of the series for Chiba City (4-0), the Asia champion. He struck out six and walked none, his only baserunner coming when he gave up Nathan de la Feraude's clean, two-out single to left in the third.

"We have a very deep pitching team," Oda said. "There are many that pitch very well. Today, I think he pitched a good game."

Tomokazu Kaise worked the fifth for Chiba City.

Chris Fischer took the loss for Surrey (2-2), the Whalley Little League team that won the Canada region. Fischer allowed nine earned runs on 10 hits and struck out six in 4 1-3 innings.

"They're happy they made it here," said Surrey coach John Atkinson said. "This is their Stanley Cup."

Japan went ahead 2-0 in the third when Shuhei Iwata walked and Taira ripped a two-run shot that just cleared the hedges beyond the outfield wall.

Taira added an RBI double in the fourth and an RBI triple in the fifth. When Taira scored in the fifth on a passed ball to make it 10-0, the mercy rule went into effect.




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