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KUTNO, Poland — Little League Baseball’s 2004 Transatlantic Regional championship featured both ends of the spectrum in its opening two games Thursday.

Belgium’s Victor Gerard pitched a run rule-shortened no-hitter in the opener as Waterloo-SHAPE clubbed the Netherlands’ champions from Brunssum and Schinnen 16-0 to establish the no-sweat parameter. Then Italian champion Naples staked out the nail-biter end of things by rallying to down Spanish champion Madrid Toros 6-4 in eight innings.

Thursday’s third game in the eight-day event, which awards the winner a berth in the Little League World Series later this month in Williamsport, Pa., was to match four-time defending Transatlantic champion Saudi Arabia against Germany champion Ramstein. London Area Little League, the seventh team in this year’s field of 11-12-year olds who are not natives of the country in which they reside, was idle on Thursday. The teams will compete in pool play through Wednesday, then cross over for semis on Aug. 12 and the championship game on Aug. 13.

Belgium 16, Netherlands 0: Gerard struck out eight of the 15 batters he faced and allowed just three balls to be hit fair on Thursday.

Gerard opened the game by striking out the side, then benefited as his team scored 12 times in the bottom of the first on eight hits, three walks and three errors. Shortstop Kevin Nelson, a Brussels American School seventh-grader who earlier had stroked two singles to drive in three first-inning runs, hit a three-run home run over the center field fence that brought the score to 15-0.

Second baseman Matt Rohn also had three hits for Belgium, which is scheduled to play Spain at 12:30 p.m. Friday. The Netherlands will try to regroup against England at 3 p.m.

Italy 6, Spain 4 (8): Spanish starter Bucky Ribbeck, who struck out 13 batters in the first five innings, was three outs away from a 2-0 shutout when Naples came to bat in the top of the sixth.

The Italian champs loaded the bases with none out when Tyler Hall — who finished 4-for-5 — singled, Derring Price Jr. walked and Tyler Jacobson singled.

Ribbeck had escaped a similar jam in the fourth with two strikeouts and a force play at home on an attempted squeeze. This time, though, Joni Fatora shot a hard fielders-choice grounder down the first base line to score Hall and watched as Price scored the tying run when Madrid first baseman Sandy Isbell threw wildly to the plate. Jacobson added a go-ahead run on another fielders-choice grounder, this one by Lucas Hertweter.

Madrid forced extra innings in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out walk to Isbell, who took second on a wild pitch and kept going on two errors.

Naples made it 4-3 in the top of the seventh when starting pitcher Devon Mitchell singled to left, took third on a two-base error and scored on Hall’s fourth hit of the day.

Once again, Spain tied the game in the bottom of the frame, and was deprived of a chance to win it when, with runners on second and third, Mitchell, who had moved to shortstop, tagged out the runner who had strayed off second and side-armed the ball off-balance to first for a game-saving double play.

Naples then closed the scoring with a two-out rally in the eighth.

Mitchell snared a liner off the bat of Isbell and doubled a runner off first to end the game.

“I was nervous at first,” Mitchell said. “After a game like this, there won’t be as much pressure on us.”


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