Hawaii goes out with a bang
It was one of those duels neither pitcher deserved to lose, a masterful display of power, finesse and resilience.
Webb City, Missouri’s Alan Pink and Waipahu, Hawaii’s Kurt Tanabe earned their stripes Monday night at Lamade Stadium, stinging zeroes like Christmas tree ornaments.
A run finally slipped across with none out in the top of the sixth when Tanabe’s pitch squirted through catcher Travis Jones, allowing Chance Sossamon to sprint home. As he did throughout the night, Tanabe recovered and allowed no more runs – but the damage had been done.
Missouri was three outs away from victory and Jones was one swing away from retribution. Following a walk by Isaac Moises, Jones won the battle, launching a towering opposite field homer to give his pitcher – and his teammates – a dramatic 2-1 victory.
“I hardly ever try to hit home runs, I go mostly for base hits,” a grinning Jones said after the game.
Hard to believe, given Jones’ brief but exciting homer history at the Series. Monday’s blast was his second walk-off home run in Williamsport – a solo shot on Friday gave Hawaii a 3-2 win over Worcester, Mass. Both smashes came on 0-2 pitches.
“I knew we had a shot for one more miracle,” Hawaii manager Clyde Tanabe said.
While Jones and his teammates were all smiles following the game, their triumph was bittersweet.
Hawaii came into the game knowing that only an extra-inning miracle marathon would lift it into the semifinals. After Worcester shut out Fort Worth, Texas, several hours earlier, the Northwest champs would have needed to hold Missouri scoreless for 33 innings without scoring a run of its own – a tall task for any team to tackle.
When Webb City went ahead 1-0, Hawaii’s magic number climbed to 45 innings.
The 2-1 score matches Hawaii’s record in Williamsport, but it lost tiebreakers to both Worcester (2-1) and Fort Worth (2-1).
Still, Clyde Tanabe prepared for the game like any other, throwing his ace out against Webb City.
“We wanted to go out a winner,” Clyde Tanabe said. “I could have thrown anybody today, but the coaches talked and we felt that if we’re going to go, we’re going to go out as winners. That’s why Kurt threw today.”
Jones’ homer ends a hard-luck Series for Webb City, which lost all three of its pool play games by the slimmest of margins. After scoring runs in bunches at the Midwest regional, Missouri was held to only two runs in Williamsport.
“I don’t know what to say, we stayed our aggressive selves,” Webb City manager Craig Powell said. “Maybe it was better pitching, I don’t know.
“But we were like a light switch, we went off when we got here.”
Missouri’s Pink matched Tanabe inning for inning, fanning seven and allowing two hits. And much like Jones’ picked up his pitcher with his bat, Pink’s fate was in the good hands of centerfielder Dakotah Miller.
Jones may be the first highlight on SportsCenter, but he’s sure to share airtime with Miller and his pair of web gems.
With the go-ahead run 60 feet away and two outs in the third, Tanabe launched a ball toward right-center field. Sprinting full speed toward the warning track, Miller reached up and snared the ball, his glove extending over the wall.
But Miller’s highlight reel was just beginning.
One inning later, he dove and snared Kyle Kobayashi’s bloop into center field with the bases loaded and two away. The sprawling play saved two runs, keeping the game scoreless into the fifth.
“He’s that type of kid,” Powell said. “He’s going to give me effort no matter what.”
The round-tripper robbery would not faze Tanabe, who calmly went back to business and struck out the side in the fourth.
Webb City mounted the first major threat in the top of the second inning, stringing together a trio of singles with one out. Although no ball was hit squarely, the placement was perfect: Caleb Powell’s grounder caromed off first base and passed first baseman Cory Yuh, Pink’s pop fell into short right field, and Brett Richardson’s ball found the hole between first and second base.
But Hawaii recovered as Jones tagged out Jaryd Gregory after Gregory tried to run home on a wild pitch. Tanabe then got Jordan Hickman to ground out, ending the inning.