SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Fairfield American had lost only once this season entering its opening Little League World Series game.
Bradley Smith and the West Regional champions from California doubled that loss total.
The huge Petaluma National pitcher was 4-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored as Fairfield American lost its first Little League World Series game 6-4 in front of 9,730 at Lamade Stadium on Thursday
Fairfield, representing New England, will play an elimination game Saturday, Aug. 18, at 2 p.m. against the loser of Goodlettsville, Tenn., and Kearney, Neb., on ABC.
"We played a good game and a great baseball team," Fairfield assistant coach T.J. Paoletta said. "We're going to put this game behind us and go out and give 100 percent on Saturday."
Smith allowed just one earned run -- a first-inning home run by Biagio Paoletta -- and struck out seven in four innings. Fairfield was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position against the 6-foot-3, 183-pound righty and managed just two hits after the first inning against Smith.
"I think the combination of first-game jitters and getting ahead of the hitters was somewhat problematic," T.J. Paoletta said. "We tip our cap to Petaluma. They had a very, very good pitcher and a good team."
Fairfield starter Ryan Meury surrendered three earned runs, walking five -- both of which were season-highs -- and striking out three as he lost for the first time this summer.
"I think there were some jitters there," T.J. Paoletta said. "(Meury) battled and battled and battled. I admire him and all the kids tremendously for their effort today."
Meury exited the game after being hit in the face at the plate with the first pitch of the fifth inning. He was treated on site, given stitches and will be re-evaluated Friday. His status for Saturday is not yet available.
"We think it deflected off his arm before it hit his face," T.J. Paoletta said. "He has a bruised upper lip and a stitch on his lower lip. We think he's going to be fine."
Biagio Paoletta and Will Lucas were each 2-for-3 with RBIs for Fairfield. Lucas' fifth-inning RBI triple helped cut Petaluma's advantage to 5-3. He then scored on a wild pitch, making it 5-4.
But Petaluma third baseman Cole Tomei led off the sixth with a single, advanced to second on Logan Douglas' groundout to first, and Danny Marzo struck an 0-1 pitch to right-center, scoring Tomei and lifting the lead to 6-4.
Patrick Steed led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, and Henry Prestegaard battled in a nine-pitch at-bat against Petaluma reliever Andrew White. But White induced Prestegaard to ground to the shortstop for a double play that hampered Fairfield's threat.
White then struck out Matty Clarkin to end the game.
Petaluma struck for a first-inning run, but Biagio Paoletta smoked a fastball over the left-centerfield wall to tie the score at 1.
"He jacked one," Smith said. "I left the ball up."
Lucas followed with a line drive that one-hopped the wall in right center. Quinton Gago fielded it and fired to Austin Paretti, nailing Lucas at second base.
"I think he got a good bounce off that padded wall and he made a good throw," T.J. Paoletta said.
Matt Kubel followed with a single, but Smith finished the first without any further damage. His third-inning homer -- a lofty fly ball which Clarkin nearly snagged in center field -- narrowly cleared the wall and broke the tie for good, giving Petaluma a 3-1 lead.
Fairfield got a run back in the fourth when Kevin Oricoli singled and advanced to second on a passed ball and to third on an error. Oricoli scored when Chris Meyers stole second and Petaluma's catcher's throw was dropped by the second baseman.
But Austin Paretti's two-run single in the fifth helped lift Petaluma's lead to 5-2.