Losers No Longer
Waipio Little League advances to U.S. Championship Game with 12-5 win over Columbus Northern Little League
Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Friday, August 27, 2010, 2:00pm ET
Seven hits was all the Waipio Little League needed to top Columbus Northern, 12-5, in Friday’s do-or-die elimination game at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, beating the previously undefeated Southeast champs twice in as many days to earn a spot in Saturday’U.S. Championship Game.
The win, which represented the team’s highest run total so far in the 2010 Series, makes Hawaii the only Final Four team to advance out of the loser’s bracket, and the West champs will take on Pearland, Texas for the right to represent the United States in Sunday’s World Series title game.
But the Waipio All-Stars knew there would be a huge roadblock standing in their way before the game even began: Georgia pitcher Jacob Pate.
The ace of the Southeast champs, Pate entered the game having allowed just two runs in his previous outing, a 6-2 win over Hawaii on the second day of the Series. But it was also the weight of a mid-70s fastball that bore down on the West champs.
“I told them last night, I said ‘I expect you guys to hit and get on because [at] the top of the order, you’ve seen him three times already,’” said Hawaii manager Brian Yoshii. “So I think I put some pressure on them and said you need to get on base and not help them out… and that’s exactly what they did.”
But not before falling into a 4-0 hole in the top of the third.
With one out, walks bookended a pair of Georgia hits to open the inning, but it was the second knock of the frame that saw the Southeast get on the board first, courtesy of a “Little League home run” from Brandon Pugh. Pugh ripped a double back to the left field wall, driving in Blake Hicks and Pate. But when the throw slipped out of Brysen Yoshii’s hand and went rolling toward the third-base dugout, Pugh rounded the bases to join his teammates at home for a 3-0 lead.
A pinch-hit single by Matthew Lang brought home Knox Carter, who drew the second walk with the bases empty and advanced to third on a Troy Gilliland hit. The Southeast champs would bat around in the frame before making the third out, but wouldn’t score again, leaving the bases juiced.
With a 4-0 lead entering the bottom of the third, Georgia was feeling confident.
“That team, that’s a very good team,” said Columbus Northern manager Randy Morris, whose 2006 team won the Little League World Series title. “They fight hard, they battle. I did feel pretty good with a four-run lead with Jacob pitching, but their kids responded and they battled with a dink here and a dink there and an error here and there… and they came back to win it.”
But for the second time in a 2010 elimination game, Hawaii proved why they should never be counted out, no matter the deficit.
In the bottom of the third, for the second time in three contests, the Waipio Little Leaguers entered an inning with a 4-0 deficit, but they didn’t leave with one. Just as they had Thursday against Ohio, the West All-Stars again found themselves smack in the middle of the elusive two-out rally, getting a quartet of runs to knot the game at 4-4 off just a single hit.
“That was another wild one,” said Yoshii, “It really goes back to these kids. They don’t give up and they do whatever it takes to win. They’ll battle and battle and battle and that’s the essence of it – it’s heart.”
A one-out walk put Ty DeSa on, and the Hawaii first baseman stole second during
the next at-bat, setting up a fielder’s choice ball that moved him 60 feet from
home. With runners at the corners after Kaimana Bartolome was hit by a pitch
with two outs, both advanced on a passed ball, cutting into Georgia’s lead, 4-1.
But the damage wasn’t done.
A subsequent walk put two on for Noah Shackles, who rocked a base-clearing triple into center to close the gap to one. A wild pitch one batter later would score Shackles, tying the game at 4-4.
“I didn’t expect to get the triple,” said Shackles. “I thought it should have been caught, but I’ll take it. It got us rallied up to score four runs and get back on Georgia.”
“I didn’t [think they could do that again],” said Morris. “But once again, these are 12- and 13-year-old baseball players, and you don’t know one inning to the next, much less one day to the next. Our team played hard, I don’t think we were overconfident or anything like that. I just think it wasn’t our day.”
But unlike it did in the elimination game against Ohio, this time Hawaii didn’t stop scoring once the inning was out.
The first three batters of the next frame would come around to score, too, started by a double from DeSa, who – along with leadoff hitter Kahoea Akau – would score a batter later when a Shiloh Baniaga batted ball slipped under the shortstop’s glove and into the outfield, an error that would cost the Southwest two more runs and send Hawaii into the fifth with a 7-4 lead.
“We could kinda feel it slipping away from us, and [my team is] not really used to that,” said Morris. “I told them that it’s not over till it’s over, so let’s keep fighting until the end. But it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Columbus Northern would get one back in the top of the fifth, but it wouldn’t do the Southeast side much good, as Waipio came back with a five-run fifth of their own, batting around while drawing three hits, three walks and a hit batsman to complete the unlikely two-wins-in-two-days comeback and earn a spot in Saturday’s U.S. finale.
“That’s a fighting team,” said Morris. “There’s no easy out in their lineup and I give them all the credit in the world. They were ready, prepared, and they did a good job at the plate.”
Despite the loss, Georgia outhit Hawaii, 8-7, a stat that has become a bit of a trend for the Waipio Little Leaguers. But it hasn’t hurt them yet, as the West champs have scored 25 runs on 18 hits over the last three outings – all win-or-go-home contests.
Pate struck out seven in 3 2/3 innings of work, but allowed seven runs and a trio of walks, plunking four. Hawaii’s top three hitters got five of the team’s seven hits on the day and went a combined 5-for-11 with six runs scored and four RBI.
“The more looks you get at a pitcher like [Pate], the better you’re gonna be,” said Morris.
“It was much easier [to face Pate today] because we’ve seen him before and we’ve seen all his pitches,” said DeSa. “So this time… we were ready to face him again.”
“We had the advantage,” said Yoshii. “We’ve seen him… and they haven’t seen [pitcher] Shiloh [Baniaga], so I thought we’d do OK. But I give a lot of credit to Jacob Pate. He’s a great pitcher and the Southeast is a great team, an excellent team.”
Hawaii has now played each of the last two days at the Little League World Series and, if they have anything to say about it, won’t get a break until the tournament is over.
“The way things are going,” said Yoshii, “it’s working. So let’s not stop.”