Little League World Series

Game 26: West 7 vs. Southeast 4

Hawaii Shackles Georgia

Pitcher earns victory, scores two runs for Waipahu

Author: Teddy Cahill

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date/Time: Thursday, August 26, 2010, 7:00pm ET

Noah Shackles started Thursday’s must-win game for Waipahu, Hawaii, flawlessly.

He struck out the side in the bottom of the first inning, getting the first three hitters in the Georgia lineup to look at strike three. Then, in the top of second, he started a two-run rally with a leadoff single, eventually scoring the game’s first run.

Shackles wasn’t done yet. With the right-hander leading the way, Hawaii defeated Columbus, Ga., 7-4 forcing a rematch Friday for the right to play in the US Finals of the Little League Baseball World Series. Shackles (1-1) threw 5 2/3 innings for the victory, striking out nine batters along the way.

“Tonight is the Noah that we know,” manager Brian Yoshii said. “He’s usually very poised.”

Hawaii is hoping to become the first team to reach the tournament’s final four from the losers’ bracket. Georgia defeated Hawaii 6-2 Saturday in both teams’ opening game. Thursday, it was the West champions who controlled the game from start to finish.

Shackles started the team’s first matchup, but had much less success. The right-hander said he was more prepared to pitch Thursday.

“Last game I wasn’t there mentally,” Shackles said. “Tonight I was very focused. I had to prove I was a better pitcher.”

The Southeast champions touched up Shackles for six runs in five innings Saturday. Georgia manager Randy Morris said he thought Shackles pitched well in both games; he just made a few more mistakes in the first one.

Shackles didn’t make any mistakes at the start of the game. He said it felt good to strike out the first three batters, all on called third strikes.

For Georgia it was a start too difficult to overcome.

“Their kid set the tone early,” Morris said. “You can’t do that and win the ballgame.”

After putting two runs on the board in the top of the second, Hawaii was well on its way to a victory. Shackles said his single to lead off the second was a confidence boost for him.

“I haven’t really had any hits, even at Regionals,” he said. “That was my first good hit.”

After a shutdown inning from Shackles, Hawaii extended its lead in the third. Pinch hitter Justice Nakaga hit a three-run home run. As Nakaga described his feelings as the ball sailed past the center field fence, his teammates at the postgame press conference couldn’t help but laugh. It was Nakaga’s first hit of the World Series, one that Yoshii had been expecting.

“We’ve been waiting for that hit,” he said. “He’s a good hitter. He’s a strong, strong kid.”

With a five-run lead, Hawaii didn’t look back and Georgia started looking ahead.

Morris said he briefly considered throwing ace Jacob Pate, but decided to save him for Friday. Yoshii said he expected Pate to start Thursday’s game, especially after he dominated Hawaii in the teams’ first meeting. But he acknowledged Morris made the right decision in holding back his ace.

Pate will start Friday’s game, Morris said. It isn’t the perfect scenario for the Georgia manager, but one he can live with.

“We rolled the dice a little bit, not starting him today,” Morris said. “But we have him tomorrow.”

Friday’s game will be the third time Hawaii and Georgia will square off at Lamade Stadium in a week. But Yoshii isn’t tired of seeing the yellow and red Southeast uniforms in the dugout across from him.

“We love playing them,” he said. “I love this opportunity because if we didn’t, we’d be home right now.”