SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- As Nick Mora's home run was rocketed into the sea of fans seated on the hill overlooking Lamade Stadium, Westport outfielders Drew Rogers and Tatin Llamas barely gave it a glance.
They didn't need to. They knew it was gone -- long gone.
In two quick innings, Westport saw its ace knocked around and its dreams of a U.S. championship at the Little League World Series all but squashed. And this time, there was no miracle rally to follow.
Plagued by an uncharacteristic poor day in the field, Westport dug itself an early six-run deficit and was ultimately crushed by Chula Vista, Calif., 12-1 in the U.S. final Saturday.
Keyed by a mammoth three-run homer by Mora that soared seven rows deep in right-center field, California tagged Knight for a season-high seven runs (four earned) in five innings. Chula Vista -- now 4-0 at the LLWS and 22-1 overall -- touched Knight up for eight hits, including six in the first two innings, and capitalized on Westport's worst fielding day to date.
"We came out a little flat," Westport manager Tim Rogers said. "I'm certain we haven't given up five errors in a game all year. We were not our usual self on defense."
Westport -- 3-2 at the LLWS, with both losses to Chula Vista, and 21-2 overall -- will wrap its season up with the third-place game against Tijuana, Mexico on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Lamade (ESPN). Chula Vista will face Tokyo in the LLWS championship game at 3 p.m. at Lamade (ABC).
Chula Vista jumped on Knight immediately, plating two runs -- one on a fielding error -- off a liner to left by shortstop Grant Holman. First baseman Giancarlo Cortez ripped a single to make it 3-0, supplying Chula Vista's starter, Mora, with all the support he would need.
"You've got to give all the credit to their hitters. Chad was battling," said Rogers, whose team rallied to a 14-13, extra-inning win over Sammamish, Wash., on Friday. "He got through a tough first and second inning. But every pitch he threw -- sometimes he was hitting his spots -- they'd foul him off, foul him off.
"They're just tremendous hitters."
In his second start of the LLWS, Mora twirled a gem, striking out 10 over 5Ã¯Â»Â¿2/3 innings. The right-hander exited after hitting the maximum 85-pitch mark to a standing ovation from most of the 27,612 at Lamade.
"When I was pitching, I knew most of (Westport's) weaknesses," said Mora, who allowed just two hits and one run, a first-inning RBI single by Matt Stone. "I knew how to pitch to them because we've been studying them."
Chula Vista, which will be bidding for its second LLWS title since 2009, also did its homework on Knight. The hurler was effective in a 6-3, nine-inning loss to Chula Vista last Wednesday (4Ã¯Â»Â¿1/3 innings, one run, nine strikeouts), but saw his opponent take an even more patient approach at the plate on Saturday.
"He's a very good pitcher. We knew we had our work cut out for us," California manager Rick Tibbett said. "But we went to work right after (Wednesday's game)."
Westport's deficit ballooned to 6-1 in the second inning on Mora's blast, which came on a 3-0 offering after a pair of two-out singles by Micah Pietila-Wiggs and Jake Espinoza. It was Mora's third long ball in two games against Westport.
"It was a good call on their coach's part to give him a green light 3-0," Rogers said. "He was waiting for that pitch. That's for sure."
With Mora mowing down Westport's lineup, California poured on six runs in the sixth off Knight and two relievers. It had five hits in the inning, including two for extra bases. And for Westport, which rallied from seven runs down to beat Sammamish, it was too much to overcome.
Six different Chula Vista players recorded a hit in the win, led by Pietila-Wiggs and Cortez, each going 3-for-4. Mora and Michael Gaines each had two hits.
Despite the loss, Rogers wants his team to savor the experience at the LLWS. Westport was the first team from Connecticut to reach the U.S. final since 1989 when Trumbull won the world championship.
"I want these guys to immediately celebrate their success and not worry about this game," Rogers said. "(Chula Vista's) just a fantastic team. To be on the same field with them and be one of the last two teams in the U.S. ... is just remarkable."
Dbonjour@scni.com; 203-255-4561 ext 114; twitter.com/DougBonjour
Chula Vista, Calif. 12, Westport 1
CHULA VISTA 330 006 -- 12 12 1
WESTPORT 100 000 -- 1 2 5