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California, Japan escape with narrow victories at LLWS

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Hagen Danner homered and struck out 12, and Huntington Beach, Calif., spoiled the Pennsylvania party at the Little League World Series with a 2-0 victory over the hometown heroes from Clinton County on Thursday night.

California will face Billings, Mont., in the U.S. final Saturday. Montana beat California 1-0 in seven innings Wednesday night. Pennsylvania was eliminated.

Danner, 12, got out of a fifth-inning jam with one out and a runner on third with a grounder and flyout.

Danner homered to right-center in the third.

With the Lamade Stadium stands rocking, Pennsylvania later put the tying run at the plate with one out in the sixth after Alex Garbrick reached on an infield single.

But closer Braydon Salzman ended Clinton County's run with a strikeout and a force play at second.

Japan moved on as well, to the international final Saturday against Mexico, with a 9-6 victory over Maracay, Venezuela.

Yoshiki Suzuki blasted two homers to lead the mashers from Hamamatsu City trying to defend the crown won by a squad from Tokyo last year.

The late game had all the intensity again of a major league playoff game, thanks in large part to the vocal backers of the Keystone Little League from Clinton County — just 30 miles from South Williamsport.

The first Williamsport-area team to advance to the series since 1969 has captured the attention of central Pennsylvania. Blue "Keystone" T-shirts were being sold at roadside stands around Williamsport, and electronic signboards wished good luck to the "Big Blue Machine."

No such luck Thursday night.

Instead, it's California advancing to the U.S. title game for a rematch with undefeated Montana.