By JOHN KEKIS
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) _ Grant Holman almost gave away a crucial victory with his arm, then took it back with his bat.
After being victimized for a three-run homer that put his Chula Vista, Calif., team in a hole on Wednesday night, the tall right-hander hit a three-run homer in the top of the ninth, and California rallied for a 6-3 victory over New England champion Westport, Conn., to earn a berth in the U.S. championship game at the Little League World Series.
“All I wanted to do was hit it hard,” Holman said, his right arm in ice after a 10-strikeout performance and winning reliever Rennard Williams smiling at his side.
Micah Pietila-Wiggs laced a one-out single to left, his third hit of the game, to start the ninth and Jake Espinoza followed with a double to right-center before Holman connected off reliever Alex Reiner.
Chula Vista’s bullpen came up big, shutting down Westport over the final five innings.
“It was fabulous,” Chula Vista manager Rick Tibbett said about his relief corps. “That’s what they do.”
Matt Brown hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth for Connecticut, and the Northeast champions seemed headed for a big victory.
But California shortstop Nick Mora hit his second homer of the game to make it 3-2 with one out in the top of the sixth and Chula Vista tied it when Reiner threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded.
The victory snapped Connecticut’s 20-game winning streak.
“It’s disappointing, of course, to lose,” Westport manager Tim Rogers said. “It’s painful to be so close to winning and lose. Obviously, they’re a very talented team. There’s no holes in their lineup whatsoever. We’ll play tomorrow.”
Westport plays Northwest champion Sammamish, Wash., on Thursday. Sammamish (3-1) moved on to the matchup in the U.S. bracket by eliminating Nashville, Tenn., 6-5 on Tuesday. Westport was coming off a 9-7 victory over Sammamish on Sunday.
Holman pitched 3 2-3 strong innings. Chasing his second no-hitter of the World Series, Holman had struck out nine _ including the first six batters he faced, swinging _ and was cruising when Max Popken drew a leadoff walk to start the fourth. Harry Azadian broke up Holman’s no-hit bid with a single to right field and Brown then homered.
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