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Waipio moves a step closer to semifinals

By Chuck Hickey / Special to the Star-Advertiser

LAST UPDATED: 2:13 a.m. HST, Aug 10, 2010

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. » Waipio Little League of Waipahu continues to play the close games at the Western Region tournament. Fortunately, it is starting to win them.

Waipio held off a spirited sixth-inning rally by Mountain Ridge LL of Las Vegas yesterday at Al Houghton Stadium, winning 4-3 and putting itself in prime position to reach the semifinals.

Mountain Ridge committed three errors, including one that broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning, as Waipio won its second consecutive game after a heart-breaking 2-1 loss to Southern California champion Ocean View LL of Huntington Beach in the opener on Friday.

"That was our game to win," Las Vegas manager Larry Quaney Jr. said. "Our pitching was stellar, but our defense killed us once again."

"Another tough game," Waipio manager Brian Yoshii said. "We have a tough schedule. All of the teams are really good."

Mountain Ridge nearly pulled it out in the sixth. With Waipio up 4-1, Yoshii brought in Ke'olu Ramos to close out the win. But Ramos walked John Maxfield, and Jeff Griffith singled to center field. After a strikeout and a forceout at third, a hit batter loaded the bases for Cody Del Toro, who roped a double to right-center field to make it 4-3.

But Ramos got Trent Bixby to ground out to second base to end the game.

"Ke'olu is my closer. It's what he does," Yoshii said. "I wanted to get him in the game because I'm going to need him down the road."

Dane Kaneshiro allowed two hits and struck out nine in five innings for Waipio.

"They were a tough team," Kaneshiro said. "They could hit the fastballs."

"The pitching again was excellent," Yoshii said. "Dane was able to hit his spots."

Waipio broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth when Kaneshiro lined out to second base with runners on first and second and second baseman Richard Mascarenas tried to double off Tyler Kushima at first.

He threw wide and the ball sailed into the Hawaii dugout, allowing Cody Maltezo to score from second. Kaimana Bartolome followed with a single to center to score Kushima to make it 3-1. In the fifth, two more Mountain Ridge errors led to a fourth Waipio run.

At 2-1, Waipio is in prime shape to make Friday's semifinals, which will be televised by ESPN2 at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Hawaii time. With today an off day and Waipio playing North Scottsdale, Ariz., at 4:30 p.m. Hawaii time tomorrow, the Hawaiian champions will know what they have to do in terms of making the semifinals, or setting themselves up for a more favorable matchup in the semis.

"For us, we just want to get into the semifinals," Yoshii said. "It's a big advantage to know what we have to do (going into tomorrow's game)."

Yoshii hinted if Waipio already has qualified for the semifinals before tomorrow's game, he'll tinker with his pitching rotation to set up the best situation for what promises to be a top-notch semifinal matchup no matter the opponent.

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