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For Waipio, it's simple: Win and go to Williamsport

By Chuck Hickey / Special to the Star-Advertiser

LAST UPDATED: 2:28 a.m. HST, Aug 15, 2010

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. » Eight days ago, Ocean View and Waipio played a Little League West Region pool-play game that was worthy of a championship matchup.

Tonight, they'll meet again with a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., on the line.

Ocean View, the Southern California champion from Huntington Beach, won that first game 2-1 on Aug. 7. Both teams finished 3-1 in pool play and won semifinal games Friday to set up what promises to be a titanic clash at Al Houghton Stadium.

"I think the winner of that game will be the favorite in Williamsport," said North Scottsdale, Ariz., manager Joe Forster, whose team lost to Hawaii 12-2 in four innings in the semifinals.

And the favorite tonight?

"That's hard to tell," he said.

Waipio will start Noah Shackles, who threw a three-hitter against Northern California champion Napa National last Sunday, walking three and striking out seven.

Ocean View will go with Logan Pouelsen. Steven Gingery, who pitched against Waipio in the first meeting, is ineligible to pitch after his masterful performance Friday vs. Napa.

"They are a talented, well-coached, disciplined team," Forster said of Waipio after a second loss to the Hawaii team in three days. "They play a very old-school-type of baseball. As a coach, I tip my hat to them. ... I've said I might be able to sneak up on a Northern Cal or a Southern Cal. You can't sneak up on discipline."

Added Ocean View's Nick Pratto: "It's going to be amazing. It was great to win state, but to say we're going to be one of the top two teams in the whole West Region is great."

Waipio manager Brian Yoshii felt his team was overswinging in its first game against Ocean View, and even though it has started hitting better lately -- it belted five home runs Friday against North Scottsdale -- there still is a concern.

"I knew we would need to improve our hitting, to make adjustments" Yoshii said. "We're now seeing higher speeds, and we'll need to make contact, look for line drives and not overswing. We've been playing pretty comfortably and solid. We'll have to work hard.

"I expect another great game. They know us. And I think we know them a little."

A pro-Ocean View crowd pushing 10,000 is expected, which could make Al Houghton Stadium "sound like Angel Stadium" as Ocean View manager Tod Minato said after an earlier game in the tournament.

"I think we've gotten a glimpse of that and will be OK," Yoshii said of the loud roars that are sure to reverberate off the San Bernardino mountains. "When we're on the field, the focus is on the field."

Yoshii wasn't playing up the hype of a rematch, but liked what he heard from Dane Kaneshiro, who said Friday, "We want to get them back."

"That's good fire, good passion," Yoshii said.

As for Williamsport, it's hard to talk about it with another game to go, but it's still there.

"It feels far away," Minato said after Friday's win. "This will be our 21st game together, probably more than any other state. And it wears on you. And we try not to let them think about Williamsport because it's too far away."

While Waipio went to the Little League World Series in 2008 and won the world championship, there are no players from that team on this year's squad. And Yoshii has been quick to say many times since the tournament started that this is a new year, a new team.

"I think the focus is on helping them achieve their goals," he said. "And getting to Williamsport, that is their dream."

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