- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, PA. (AP) - Powerful Petaluma, Calif., can pitch, too.

Hance Smith’s three-run homer in the third broke open a tight game, and reliever-turned-starter Quinton Gago struck out seven over 5 1-3 innings in a 5-0 win Tuesday night over Fairfield, Conn., in the Little League World Series.

California moves on to the U.S. semifinals on Thursday night. Connecticut was eliminated.

The 12-year-old Gago said it was the best performance of his young career, even though he was a little nervous when the night started.

“In the back of my mind, I said `I am not a starter,’” Gago said as he held on to an ice pack strapped to his left shoulder. “But right as I took the mound, I felt it went away.”

Nuevo Laredo, Mexico also is moving on after a 6-2 victory over Willemstad, Curacao, and Lugazi, Uganda made the biggest splash Tuesday with a win in its tournament finale.

The first team from Africa to qualify for youth baseball’s biggest tournament notched another first with a 3-2 victory over Gresham, Ore. in a consolation game. Uganda dropped its first two games in the series.

In the nightcap, Gago stifled Connecticut.

Fairfield’s best chance came in the second when Michael Ghiorzi led off with a single, and an error made it runners on first and second with nobody out.

But third baseman Cole Tomei charged a bunt and started a 5-6-4 double play, and Gago got a strikeout to end the threat.

“That was completely awesome,” Gago said about the double play. “That double play really helped me out a lot. I really liked that.”

Ryan Meury led off the Connecticut sixth with a double, and Gago left after a groundout because he had reached his pitch limit. He got a hug from a teammate before heading to the dugout.

Reliever Andrew White closed it out, and the teams exchanged handshakes at the plate before the California kids returned calmly to their dugout while a marching band played in the stands.

After his team won elimination games in three consecutive days, manager Eric Smith said he planned to give his boys Wednesday off. But White quickly reminded him of one trip he promised they could make.

“What about Dairy Queen?” the 12-year-old White asked.

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