Little League World Series

Game 9: Northwest 5 vs. Midwest 2

Alive and well

Auburn, Wash. stays in tournament with 5-2 elimination win over Plymouth, Minn.

Author: Mark Rogoff

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date/Time: Saturday, August 21, 2010, 8:00pm ET

Losing is quite unfamiliar to the All-Stars from Auburn, Wash. Their manager, Kai Nahaku, wasn’t even sure how they would handle their 3-1 loss to Fairfield, Conn. in their Series-opening game after going a perfect 6-0 in regional play and a stellar 15-0 in All-Star competition overall.

Not only that, they were already facing elimination from the Little League World Series when they took the field Saturday night against Plymouth, Minn., at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

“I didn’t know how they were going to be,” Nahaku said. “Really, they were all like they didn’t lose. It was more that they were mad at themselves for not preparing for the game the way they had in the past. Today when we went to warm up it was a totally different team than when we started yesterday.”

The adversity turned out to be no problem whatsoever. Ikaika Nahaku pitched five innings of two-run ball, and Casey Manning broke open a 3-2 game with a two-run homer in the fifth, as Washington (1-1) took a 5-2 decision over Minnesota (0-2) in the first elimination contest of the Series.

Washington will next play Monday against the loser of Sunday’s Connecticut-Texas showdown. Minnesota, meanwhile, will play an exhibition crossover game on Monday against the loser of Sunday’s Germany-Mexico clash.

“It was stressful never losing and then coming in to an elimination game at the Little League World Series and having to win,” Ikaika Nahaku said.

That stress showed in the bottom of the first inning, when Ikaika fell in a hole by allowing a pair of Minnesota runs. But he settled down quickly after that, retiring eight batters in a row at one point until giving up a leadoff single in the fifth to Josh Thorp. He reached the pitch-count limit after five innings, and Dillon O’Grady came on in the sixth for the save by retiring the side in order.

“It was hard to get strikes, but I tried to locate my fastball well,” Ikaika said. “When I needed to, I threw my curveball for a strike.”

Washington came back to tie it at 2-2 in the third. O’Grady singled home Isaiah Hatch to cut the deficit in half. O’Grady later scored on Manning’s ground out to first.

The score remained locked up until the fifth, when O’Grady’s two-out RBI single made it 3-2. Manning then provided the insurance with his two-run homer to straightaway center field on an 0-1 offering from Talor Blustin.

“I was very excited,” Manning said when asked about his brisk run around the bases. “Honestly, I thought it was a pop fly. That’s why I was running so fast. When I hit it over I was more excited, so I started to run a little faster.”

All four players in the post-game press conference, including Hatch, were excited for a potential rematch with Connecticut. Ikaiki spoke for the group, saying, “We really want to bounce back and beat Connecticut. We feel that we should have won that game and that we were just on our heels and we weren’t ready.”