Friday, November 27, 2015         


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Waipio rides a big inning to its second LLWS berth in three years

By Chuck Hickey / Special to the Star-Advertiser


SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. » Wow! The West is won.


Waipio kept knocking on the door of opportunity in the West Region final last night, failing to bust through early and wondering how many chances it was going to get against Ocean View fireballer Logan Pouelsen.

Finally, the big moment came in the fourth inning as Waipio took advantage of a two-out error to score four runs, then rode the arm of Noah Shackles to stun the Southern California champion from Huntington Beach 4-1 in front of about 10,000 fans at Al Houghton Stadium and vault into the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

It's the second time in three years that Waipio has won the West and will go to Williamsport. The league won the world championship in 2008.

"When (the 2008 Waipio team) won (the World Series), this was my dream, to play at Williamsport," Shackles said.


Who: Waipio vs. Columbus, Ga.

When: Saturday, 9 a.m.

TV: KITV (Ch.6)


Added manager Brian Yoshii: "This has been their dream, to get to Williamsport."

It nearly didn't happen after Waipio was stymied in the second and third innings, leaving runners on first and second in the second and the bases loaded in the third, the latter ending when a line shot hit baserunner Kaimana Bartolome, forcing him from the game.

"We knew our opportunity would come," Yoshii said. "We were hitting (Pouelsen) and getting him off-balance, making him throw a lot of pitches. We knew eventually we would get him."

Then, Southern California broke through when No. 9 hitter Michael Gates hit a home run to left field, putting Waipio behind for the first time since its pool-play loss to Ocean View on Aug. 7.

"I didn't have to say anything," Yoshii said when the team came off the field after the third inning. "They knew what they had to do."

Shackles led off with a walk, went to second on a passed ball and to third on a wild pitch. After Justice Nakagawa walked, Brysen Yoshii put down a bunt, but third baseman Armando Duarte fired to catcher Chad Minato, who applied the tag on Shackles to keep Ocean View in the lead.

Then came the key moment. Matthew Campos hit a grounder to first baseman Nick Pratto, who fired to shortstop Hagen Danner to force out Yoshii at second. But Danner's throw back to first was wild — had it been accurate, Campos would have been out, ending the inning — allowing Nakagawa to score and sending Campos to third.

Kaho'ea Akau, who played flawless defense at second base, walked, then Ty DeSa got an infield hit to score Campos with the tie-breaking run. Shiloh Baniaga then hit a flyball to right field that was misjudged by Hunter Jackson that fell in for a triple to make it 4-1.

"We don't put pressure on us," Shackles said of the deficit. "We knew we would battle back, that we would keep fighting. No matter what, we keep battling. We've been down five runs before and came back. That's how Waipio plays."

The runs were more than enough for Shackles, who held Ocean View to four hits, striking out nine in a complete-game 83-pitch performance.

"He was good," Ocean View manager Tod Minato said. "I think we're a good-hitting team, but if you can pitch a complete game with 83 pitches against us, you've done a great job."

Waipio will fly east to Williamsport tomorrow and open the World Series at 9 a.m. Hawaii time Saturday on KITV against Columbus (Ga.) Northern. It is in a four-team double-elimination bracket with Columbus, West Side Little League of Hamilton, Ohio, and either Toms River, N.J., or Council Rock Newton LL of Newton, Pa.

"I'm just so happy for the kids," Yoshii said. "They've had all these goals on a whiteboard, crossing them off. Now, they can cross going to Williamsport off."

And bringing another world championship back to Oahu is next.

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