A wild six-run sixth inning vaults Hawaii over Louisiana, 7-5, and
into the Little League Baseball World Series Championship for the
first time since 2005
By Allie Weinberger
After months of competition and travel, weeks of tournament play
in Williamsport and years of dreaming of this very moment, it all
came down to this. Down 5-1 with just one inning left to play, the
Waipoi, Hawaii Little Leaguers knew they had to dig deeper than they
ever had before.
Meanwhile, just three simple outs stood between the Lake Charles,
Louisiana Little Leaguers and a chance at ultimate glory. Everyone
but Hawaii considered the game all but over – the outcome was
decided. But the champions of the West weren’t about to let those
three little outs be easy.
Doubt filled every nook of Howard J. Lamade Stadium as Tanner
Tokunaga stepped into the batter’s box.
Crack! A single leapt off his bat and into left field. A double to
the same place followed off the hands of Pikai Winchester to put two
runners in scoring position for Iolana Akau.
Louisiana closer Gunner Leger wouldn’t be scared off. He looked down
to home and delivered. Akau saw it, and ripped the offering into
centerfield to plate Hawaii’s second run, making it 5-2.
Starting hurler Khade Paris came to the plate for the first out, an
out that also allowed Winchester to come around to score and Akau to
Caleb Duhay took Leger for another RBI single up the middle,
narrowing the deficit to just a single run, 5-4.
With runners on first and second, Leger got opposing pitcher Trevor
Ling to strikeout, leaving a showdown between Leger and catcher
Keelen Obedoza. A five-pitch walk loaded the bases for leadoff
hitter Christian Donahue.
An air of, is this really happening? loomed over the crowd, over the
“It obviously didn’t look too good through that fifth inning,” said
Hawaii skipper Timo Donahue. “We do pretty good against lefties, but
we were down. There’s something I tell these guys all the time – as
long as we are within a grand slam, anything can happen.”
And with a new pitcher, Peyton McLemore, on the mound, that anything
he spoke of did happen. A sharp grounder flew off the bat of Donahue
to Leger, who had moved to first base. It looked as though the game
had ended when he knocked it down and looked to make that final,
But it was not to be. Leger lost the ball underneath him. Scrambling
to find it, he couldn’t stop Donahue from beating it out. As the
tying run came around to score, Donahue hopped up and down on the
“When I saw him bobble the ball I just started running harder,”
Donahue said after the game.
“Just like Coach Timo said, we’re gonna get to this guy. And then
they took him out,” said Tokunaga. “And then we got to the other
Tokunaga came up to bat again, knocking a double into left field to
score two more runs, pushing the score to 7-5, a score that would
not change, in favor of the Hawaii side moving into the bottom of
“In the dugout, you never want to panic,” said Louisiana manager
Charlie Phillips. “You never want to let them think you don’t
believe in them and that you don’t have confidence in them. It is a
helpless feeling in the dugout.”
But in the bottom half of the sixth, the outs did come easy, as Ling
got the Louisiana hitter to strike out and the next two to hit into
two groundouts to close out the game for a 7-5 final.
It was a moment of emotion, both of joy and sadness, greater than
any 12-year-old could have imagined on the day he first set foot in
“Baseball’s baseball,” said Charlie Phillips. “It doesn’t matter
when you go through an inning like that, you always feel the same
after. It’s just that emotions are a little bit higher today.”
“Heading into that inning – I think they had a four run lead –
pretty much seemed like they were coming out of the game, and then
to see it slip away on a string of I don’t know how many hits,” said
Donahue. “If I was in Charlie’s shoes, I would have felt pretty good
with three outs to go and four runs, but that’s why this game is
played, because anything can happen.”
Hawaii first put pressure on Quinn in the third inning, when stud
slugger Winchester dumped an RBI single into shallow centerfield to
score the game’s first run.
With a 1-0 lead, Paris took his one-hitter into the bottom of the
fourth to face the heart of the Louisiana lineup. Back-to-back walks
to lead off the home half of the frame ended Paris’s day on the
mound in favor of Tokunaga.
“Khade did what he could for us, he kept us in there,” said manager
Donahue. “I think he did a hell of a job for us.”
Tokunaga struggled pitching out of the stretch, giving up a two-run
single to Bryce Jordan that carried into centerfield. Jordan moved
to third on the throw home. Nicholas Abshire followed up Jordan’s
hit with a lace up the middle of his own, plating Jordan to take a
3-1 lead. Tokunaga would issue two more walks before striking out
But the Louisiana Little Leaguers had done their damage, batting
around and needing just six more outs to earn the state’s first ever
trip to the Little League World Series title game.
Fontenot made it 4-1 in the fifth with a solo home run to right
centerfield. Beau Jordan’s fluky double turned into the Southwest’s
fifth run after twin brother Bryce Jordan moved him to third on a
deep flyout and Abshire came through with his second RBI single of
But eventual winning hurler Ling, who relieved Tokunaga with one out
in the inning, got Hawaii out of the inning without any further
And just as Louisiana and a stadium full of 22,700 fans thought the
battle was over, the Waipoi Little Leaguers came through with their
six-run sixth inning.
“I know how they feel,” said Phillips. “I know how it feels to win,
I know how it feels to lose, and they have a great future ahead of
them. This can’t define them and I pretty much told them don’t let
this moment define you. Without every one of those kids we would
have never gotten here.
“The hurt,” he continued, “it doesn’t just go away. But I’ll tell
you what – there are 6,298 teams that wished they felt that today.”
With the 7-5 win, Hawaii now moves on to the Main Event – the Little
League Baseball World Series Championship, where they will face off
against the International Champions from Matamoros, Tamaulipas
Mexico, Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
“I knew they were a great team and I knew they deserved to play
tomorrow for a championship,” said Phillips of the Hawaii squad. “I
liked them a lot, I like their attitude, I like their effort and
they just scrap and play hard. I’m proud for them, they deserved it,
they earned it.”
“These guys are showing that they have it in them, that
never-give-up attitude,” said Donahue. “And though it did look bleak
in the last inning, that attitude came out of them. Hopefully they
can pull out one more win in their last game as 12-year-old Little
© 2008, Little League Baseball
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