SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Nick Mora made sure that California would play for the Little League World Series championship.
Mora allowed just two hits and smacked a three-run homer, and Chula Vista beat Westport, Conn., 12-1 in the U.S. title game on Saturday.
California will play Japan for the World Series title on Sunday. Japan beat Mexico 3-2 earlier Saturday on Takuma Gomi’s leadoff home run in the top of the sixth inning.
California took a 6-1 lead in the first two innings against the New England champions, scoring three times in the first with the help of some sloppy Connecticut play and getting three more on Mora’s long home run in the second.
The West champions added six more runs in the sixth on a passed ball, a wild pitch, an error, an RBI single by Mora, and a two-run double by Michael Gaines.
Mora gave California the spark it needed with ace right-hander Grant Holman not eligible to pitch until Sunday. Mora struck out 10 and walked only one before reaching his pitch limit with one out left in the game.
It had been a memorable World Series for both teams.
The 6-foot-4 Holman pitched the first extra-inning no-hitter in the Little League World Series since 1979, striking out 13 in seven innings in a 3-0 first-round victory over Grosse Pointe, Mich. Holman also won Wednesday night’s game against Connecticut with a three-run homer in the ninth inning and hit a grand slam in the fourth inning that ended a mercy rule-shortened 15-3 victory over Newark, Del.
For Connecticut, Chad Knight lined a run-scoring single to deep left field in the seventh inning to give the New England champions a wild 14-13 win over Sammamish, Wash., on Friday. He also hit a solo homer to tie it at 13 in the fifth.
Westport was torched for 10 runs in the fourth inning by Sammamish, then rallied with seven runs in the fifth to tie it. They did it with power, also getting home runs from Alex Reiner, Max Popken, Tatin Llamas and Ricky Offenberg.
Perhaps worn out from all that excitement and with not much time to recover, Connecticut fell behind early against California and couldn’t make another valiant rally.
Chula Vista scored three times in the first inning when Connecticut committed three errors. Micah Pietila-Wiggs led off with a single, his eighth hit of the World Series, and Jake Espinoza reached second on an error after grounding into a force play. Mora then reached on an error by third baseman Harry Azadian, and Holman singled to left, reaching third when the ball went through the legs of outfielder Charlie Roof. When Giancarlo Cortez followed with an RBI single, California had a 3-0 lead.
Matt Stone’s RBI single in the first put Connecticut on the board, but California came right back again.
Pietila-Wiggs singled again, this time through the pitcher’s legs, Espinoza beat out a high bouncer to the mound, and Mora crushed a 3-0 pitch from Connecticut starter Knight onto the hill well beyond the fence in right-center for a 6-1 lead.
Knight settled down after that, striking out the side in the third and retiring the side in order in the fourth. He went to the dugout having thrown 74 pitches, just 11 from the maximum allowed under Little League rules, but his teammates couldn’t produce one last rally as Mora held the New England champions at bay.
Mora struck out the side in the second, allowed one hit in the third, and faced only three batters in the fourth as Connecticut blundered again.
Stone lofted a high fly to left that Michael Gaines appeared to lose in the sun.
The ball caromed off his glove for an error. Stone, however, was out trying to reach second when Pietila-Wiggs took the throw, blocked the bag with his feet, and slapped a tag on him.
Connecticut challenged the call, but it stood after a video replay.
Chula Vista’s victory came 50 years to the day after California defeated Connecticut 2-1 for the 1963 Little League World Series title.