SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Chandler National got a lot of mileage out of its first four hits Saturday — enough to carry it all the way to Williamsport, Pa.
Cody Bellinger hit a two-run home run and a two-run double, and Skyler Palermo homered twice as Chandler National beat Southern California champion Solana Beach 7-3 for the Little League West Regional championship at Al Houghton Stadium.
Palermo pitched a solid game, going 4 1/3 innings and giving up three runs, striking out eight. Seth Fretheim relieved, escaping from a jam in the fifth and striking out the side in the sixth.
Chandler National advances to the Little League World Series, which begins Friday. Chandler National follows in the footsteps of last year’s Ahwatukee team, marking the first time Arizona has sent teams to Williamsport in consecutive seasons.
The Ahwatukee team showed up Saturday night, lending support.
“We are rivals on the field, but we’re friends,’’ Chandler National coach Jeff Parrish said.
Solana Beach pitching proved tough, allowing only five hits — Chandler’s other hit was a single by Edgar Galiz in the sixth — and striking out 13.
“It’s baseball,’’ Parrish said. “Good pitching slows down the hitting.”
Chandler National broke the game open with four runs in the fifth. Boston Whitlow was hit with a pitch to start the inning. Fretheim followed with a walk. Bellinger doubled, scoring Whitlow and Fretheim.
“After the double we started to get really excited,” catcher Connor Woods said. “That carried over to the defense. It was just the flow of the game.”
Bellinger later scored on a wild pitch by reliever Matty Kirkpatrick.
Palermo followed with a line drive to left center that cleared the fence to make it 7-2.
“We didn’t let our guard down until we had the last out,’’ Parrish said.
Solana Beach scored once in the fifth and had a runner on second when Fretheim entered. He got a lineout to Galiz at second and a strikeout.
“'Hammer’ got it done tonight,’” Parrish said.
Playing before a packed house of about 10,000 and a national cable TV audience, Chandler National needed just two batters to take a 2-0 lead. Fretheim led off with a sinking liner that left fielder Jackson Gentes dropped.
Bellinger followed with an opposite-field homer to left.
Chandler National had a chance to do more damage. Kyle Pechloff and Palermo drew one-out walks. But Daniel Reitzlor was able to get the next two batters.
Palermo got off to shaky start, walking leadoff batter Hayden Grant, but struck out the next three.
Solana Beach tied the game in the second with a two-run homer by Caleb Kreeger.
Palermo ran into a jam in the third, walking two batters with one out before striking out the last two.
Palermo led off the fourth with a high fly over the center-field fence as Chandler regained the lead 3-2. Reitzlor struck out the next three batters.
Solana Beach threatened in the bottom of the fourth. Jackson Balla led off with his second single of the game. Pinch runner Chad Thurston took second and third on a wild pitch and a passed ball.
One out later, Reitzlor hit a bouncer to first that normally sure-handed James Ziegler fielded, then dropped. He couldn’t recover in time.
Reitzlor stole second. Palermo struck out Gentes, then got Grant to ground out to second baseman Dalton Krum.