Little League World Series

Game 20: West 6 vs. Great Lakes 4

One Ain’t So Lonely For Hawaii

A crazy fourth led to nine combined runs between the West Side Little League and the Waipio All-Stars, but it was Hawaii who made the most of Ohio’s pitching woes to move on in the 2010 Little League Baseball World Series.

Author: Allie Weinberger

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date/Time: Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 4:00pm ET

When asked if he would have thought his team could pull off a win – much less a 6-4 win – on just a single hit, Waipio Little League manager Brian Yoshii had a simple and immediate answer: not a chance.

“I still can’t believe it,” he said. “When we looked at the scoreboard – seven hits [for them] and one hit [for us] – the only thing I can say is that these kids never give up. And somehow we got lucky.”

In a game in which Hamilton took a 4-0 lead, Hawaii found itself the beneficiary of inconsistent pitching and uncontrollable emotions en route to a 6-4 victory over Ohio with the benefit of only one hit in Wednesday’s elimination game at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

“Hey, that’s baseball,” said Ohio manager Ken Coomer. “It happens sometimes. We felt we outplayed them, we know we outplayed them, and it came down to one inning.”

Both teams saw extreme highs and lows in the fourth inning, a frame that saw 13 of the game’s 21 baserunners and nine of its 10 runs, including all six of Hawaii’s runs.

With a 1-0 edge entering the top of the fourth, Ohio’s Jarod Morrison started off the frame doubling to left field. Bryce Couch quickly doubled Ohio’s lead with an RBI single up the middle, the second of three-consecutive hits and four-straight baserunners for the Great Lakes. After another single into left from Ryan Robinson, a full-count walk to Sam Scott loaded the bases for Tyler Hannah with no one out.

Hawaii catcher Keolu Ramos got his team the first big out on a spectacular play, sliding into the backstop to glove a foul ball popped back by Hannah. But with the bags still juiced, starting pitcher Brooks Robinson stepped to the plate with a big opportunity to help not just his team but himself as well.

Robinson didn’t let the chance escape him, either, lofting a long single that dropped at the base of the wall in centerfield, driving in two. When the throw from center came home with the possibility of making an out at the plate, both Scott and Robinson advanced, leaving runners in scoring position with one out and a 4-0 advantage.

“I [told them to] never give up, we’re battling to the end,” said Yoshii. “We’re leaving everything on the field. I want all your energy, everything you’ve got to the very end.”

Hawaii starter Dane Kaneshiro would see the last outs of the fourth made from right field, lifted for reliever Ezra Heleski.

“When I first came in, I wasn’t really sure of myself because I didn’t warm up or anything, and I didn’t throw much in the regionals,” said Heleski. “But when I got on the mound and starting taking my warm-up pitches, I felt good and I knew I could shut them down.”

The 5-foot-1 southpaw got the job done with just five pitches.

“When I struck out that first guy, I was pumped up,” he said. “And then I just kept on going and they couldn’t hit [me].”

“We felt good [after the top of the fourth],” Coomer said. “We scored three more runs, Brooks came through with the big hit, we were up 4-0, Brooks hadn’t given up a hit. And then the wheels started falling off.”

With the help of Robinson, the West champs started shaking the axles early in their half of the fourth, loading the bases with the first three batters, courtesy of a hit batsman and back-to- back walks. But after two quick outs – the second of which a fielder’s choice that scored Ty DeSa – Hawaii got what the Ohio parents had been chanting about just minutes earlier: a two-out rally.

Replacement centerfielder Matthew Campos knocked the first wheel off in a big way six batters into the fourth, clearing the bases with a shot to right centerfield to even the score at 4-4 and spoiling Robinson’s no-hit bid with one out to go in the frame.

But the troubles were only starting for the Great Lakes.

After another walk from Robinson – his third of the inning and fourth of the day – Coomer had seen enough, lifting the hurler for twin brother, Ryan. But a wild pitch, a walk and another hit batsman reloaded the bases in just eight pitches, and Coomer went to his third hurler of the inning in Bryce Couch.

“When we saw [Brooks Robinson] struggling – we definitely wanted him to earn the strikes – so we told the kids to be patient,” said Yoshii. “We told them he needs to throw strikes.”

But Couch fared no better than his predecessors, plunking DeSa with his first pitch to force home Brysen Yoshii from third and give the Waipio Little Leaguers their first lead of the game, 5-4. His next offering didn’t go much better, sailing well over the head of catcher Scott for a run-scoring wild pitch.

“You only get seven pitches,” said Coomer. “It’s hard to get a kid warmed up in seven pitches. But again, we weren’t really expecting that to happen. We can’t blame Bryce for any of that.”

Shiloh Baniaga made the last out of the inning with a grounder back to the pitcher in his second at-bat of the frame, but not before the West had taken over the scoreboard by a 6-4 margin.

“That’s Little League Baseball I guess,” said Coomer. “You’re going into the inning leading 4-0, and… it’s tough as a coach because you know you can’t do anything about it. Maybe we waited a little too long [to take Brooks out].”

In all, Hawaii recorded just a single hit despite sending 11 batters to the plate in the six-run fourth, while a trio of Great Lakes pitchers handed out four free passes and hit a trio of batters in the inning.

The West Side Little League got just one hit and two baserunners off Heleski throughout the remainder of the contest, moving a runner to third in the sixth before the Waipio All-Stars put them away for good.

“I was thinking [we’d use Ezra] one time through the lineup or maybe one inning,” Yoshii said, “but they didn’t adjust to it, so I just kept him going.”

“First, [Ezra] got us pumped up because he stopped the bleeding and shut them down,” said Campos. “And then the rest of the game he kept mowing them down until it was the end.”

Hamilton got the scoring started with a leadoff homer in the top of the second from Ryan Robinson, marking the only run scored outside the fourth in the contest.

On the day, Ohio issued seven walks and hit three Hawaii batters in the affair while outslugging its opponent, 7-1. Heleski fanned five in two and two-thirds to get the win, while Hawaii pitching allowed just two freebies – one via the walk and another a hit batsman – to win the right to play undefeated Georgia in Thursday’s 7 p.m. matchup.

Hawaii will have to beat the Southeast champs twice, though, if it hopes to continue onto Saturday’s U.S. Championship Game.

“If we come with the fire and we come all out and play with all our hearts, I think we’ll be alright,” said Yoshii.