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Petaluma headed to Little League World Series

  • Petaluma Little League, representing Northern California, celebrates after defeating Hawaii the Little League Baseball Western Regional Tournament championship game at Al Houghton Stadium in San Bernardino, Calif. on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012. Petaluma defeated Hawaii 7-6, and went undefeated in throughout the entire Western Regional tournament. (Rachel Luna / Correspondent)

SAN BERNARDINO — The Petaluma National Little League team assured a place in Sonoma County lore Saturday with a wild 7-5 win over Hawaii in the West Regional championship game.

The victory by the 13 Petaluma 12- and 13-year-olds in front of 5,100 spectators makes them the first Sonoma County team in history to reach the pinnacle of youth baseball — the Little League Baseball World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.

"I swear, I was bawling," said outfielder Quinton Gago, as his team celebrated around him on the field minutes after the game. "It still hasn't sunk in."

Petaluma Wins World Series Spot

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The team will fly today to Pennsylvania, where 16 teams will play 30 games between Thursday and the championship game Aug. 26. All games will be televised on ABC or on ESPN and its affiliates.

"I've never seen anything like it," said a teary-eyed Jackie O'Hanlon, the mother of catcher James O'Hanlon. "These boys of Petaluma have challenged every part of their bodies — and their families — to get here. It's so amazing."

In 1995, the Petaluma Valley team advanced to within one game of the World Series. They lost in the West Regional championship 4-2 to Yorba Linda on a home run in the eighth inning.

But Petaluma National's destiny was different.

It began as one of 4,441 teams entered in the all-star tournaments played by Little League teams across the globe. Petaluma won its district, section and then division to qualify for the West Regional in San Bernardino. That put the team among the best 52 that played at eight regional tournaments in the U.S. and another 79 teams in eight international regionals.

Now they can count themselves among the top 16 teams in the world.

Heads-up thinking by Petaluma second baseman Porter Slate cut short a rally by Hawaii, which trailed 7-4 going into the sixth and last inning.


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