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Waipio gets win in regional

By Chuck Hickey / Special to the Star-Advertiser


SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. » Pitching and defense have been trademarks of Hawaii's Little League champions over the years at the Western Regional tournament. That combination was on full display yesterday afternoon as Waipio beat Northern California champion Napa National 4-1 in a pool-play game.

It was a much happier group of 11- and 12-year-old All-Stars less than 24 hours after a heart-breaking loss to Southern California champion Huntington Beach. The win improved Waipio to 1-1 and created a four-way tie for second place. The top four teams advance to the semifinals.

"Another great game," Waipio manager Brian Yoshii said. "Northern Cal is a great team."

Waipio right-hander Noah Shackles threw a three-hitter in a crisp 78 pitches, striking out seven.

"He was very efficient," Yoshii said. "How many kids can throw a complete game in 78 pitches like that? He definitely deserved to finish, and we needed the win."

The key moment came in the fourth inning with no score. Dane Kaneshiro led off with a single for Waipio when Napa National manager Kyle Rasmusen removed starting pitcher Gabriel Reyes, who was on strict 50-pitch limit.

"It was never in doubt," Rasmusen said. "We didn't want to push Gabe. He hasn't thrown 50 pitches in a month. Usually, he's a 20- to 35-pitch pitcher for us. We needed to keep him for Utah."

"It was a great pitchers' duel," Yoshii said. "He did a great job for them. I'm not sure why they pulled him."

Dahlen Benere relieved, and the first pitch to Tyler Kushima was a ball, catching the attention of Rasmusen.

"I saw it right away. He just had no velocity," Rasmusen said. "I thought it was just a pitch."

But on Benere's next pitch, Kushima slammed the ball deep over the center-field fence to give Waipio a 2-0 lead. Benere was pulled right after giving up the home run.

"I just wanted to hit a line drive to move up the runners," Kushima said. "But it carried over the fence."

Napa National made it 2-1 in the fifth when Jake Rasmusen hit an RBI single up the middle. But in the sixth, Kushima walked and Shiloh Baniaga homered to center field off a tiring Juan Lopez to make it 4-1.

Shackles gave up a leadoff walk in the sixth but got a pop-up, strikeout and a comebacker on a drag bunt attempt to end it.

Yoshii had no doubt he was going to keep going with Shackles.

"It was a close game, and there was no reason to take him out," Yoshii said. "He was very effective. We were doing our best to win the game. That was our focus, to win this game. ... I've got a lot of pitching. Twelve of our 13 guys pitched during the regular season, so I'm not too worried about running out of pitchers."

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Waipio falls 2-1 in West Regional

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