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National lights up American

July 07, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

It might have come two days after the Fourth of July, but the fireworks show put on by National Little League in Wednesday's District 1 9-10 Tournament was a first-class production. It started slow and built up to an impressive grand finale.

What started out looking like a pitching duel with American Little League in the winners' bracket final at American's Brandenburg Memorial Park turned into a spectacular showcase for National in a five-inning, 10-0 victory that gave it a spot in Monday's championship game.

American starter Aaron Staley kept National off the scoreboard in the first two innings and only walked two batters in the game, but National scored a run in the third inning and two in the fourth before breaking the game open - and ultimately ending it - with a seven-run fifth.

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"We told the kids all night we had to hit (Staley)," National manager Jeff Swope said. "He was around the plate on the outside corner, and we just had to hit him."

And hit him National did. Singles by Jordan Dickens (on a bunt) and Dylan Appel, combined with one of American's four errors, led to a run in the third, and Appel's two-run double in the fourth made it 3-0.

The floodgates swung wide open in the fifth. Zachary Sines drove in two runs with a single, Scott Bennett drove in a run with another single, Dickens smashed a double to left to drive in one and Aaron Roby drove in another with a single. National scored its other two runs in the inning on a steal of home and an American error.

Bennett went the distance on the mound, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out six for National.

"His control was great," Swope said. "I made my mind up before I got home (from practice Tuesday) that he was going to throw tonight."

Appel, Bennett, Dickens and Keith Johnson each finished with two hits for National.

American will play in the losers' bracket final Sunday. A victory would give American another crack at National, though whichever team comes out of the losers' bracket will have to beat National twice for the title.

"Once (National) got on the board, we just weren't hitting the ball," American manager Scherry Fearnow said. "Not like we usually hit."

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