Waipio's bracket contains two other previous World Series champs
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 21, 2010
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. » The smile never left Brian Yoshii's face.
Standing outside the media area in front of Lamade Stadium, the Waipio manager took it all in, observing every sight the Little League World Series had to offer.
His team, walking back up to the dorms, had just finished the opening ceremonies of the series and had some time before its scheduled practice session behind Volunteer Stadium.
While four U.S. teams — Minnesota, Texas, Washington and Connecticut — began journeys toward an LLWS title yesterday, Waipio had to wait another day.
That's OK with Yoshii. It's just more time to soak in the atmosphere.
"It's like Christmas in August for them," Yoshii said. "This is beyond what they expected. It's everything from the uniforms to the bats to the helmets. It's something I don't think they will ever forget for the rest of their lives."
ON TVColumbus (Ga.) vs. Waipio (Hawaii)
Waipio, LLWS champ in 2008, begins the journey for its second title in three years with a matchup with Columbus North Little League, Ga., today.
Columbus, another previous champion, is a perfect 16-0 in the all-star season and has scored more than 10 runs in nine of its games.
"All the teams here are really tough, and there are some strong ones in our side of the bracket. Georgia and Toms River (N.J.) have both won a Little League World Series before, so you know they have strong programs. Ohio is tough, too. I like our chances because the West has prepared us. That was a pretty tough tournament."
Of course, it helps when you have someone to lean on.
That person for Yoshii is Timo Donahue, manager for the 2008 champ.
Donahue's advice: It's all gravy from here.
"The one thing that Coach Timo pointed out in 2008 was that it could be done, that we could win the Little League World Series," Yoshii said. "I think that's huge because we know a team from our league could do it. That's good for our kids. It's not easy. It's so hard to get to this point. Just winning the district tournament was tough for us. From that point on, it's just been a great experience for our team.
"I spoke with Coach Timo several times. He has so much knowledge about the sport, and he's one of the main reasons why the league has really had its success. He described this whole environment to me. I listened to him, but I said, 'Wait, Coach. We're not even out of the island yet.' And he told me that we were going to win districts and states, and we would see what happened when we hit the West Regional. He's always there to help."
One of the major changes in Little League play this season was the pitch-count rules. The major switch-up has to do with the length of rest needed, which forces teams to be deeper with their rotations.
If a youngster tosses more than 66 pitches, he'll need to sit out four days.
What does that mean? If one of Waipio's boys throws more than 66 pitches today, he wouldn't be available again until Thursday.
And in a double-elimination tournament where each game means the tournament, balance becomes key.
Waipio has an advantage from the standpoint that Yoshii has a rotation of four strong pitchers.
"We've thought about pitching quite a lot," Yoshii said. "We've spent hours watching film. I think that we are fortunate that we have so many strong pitchers. We feel pretty good about them, and we are confident in anyone we send to pitch."
The battle through the West could also prove beneficial.
Waipio saw a number of strong pitchers, including California's Steve Gingery, who handed the locals their lone loss of all-star play. They will have to be on again today, as Georgia will probably throw its ace, Jacob Pate, at some point.
"It was good that we were tested in the regional," Yoshii said. "We are ready for any challenge. Physically, at the West Regional, I would say we were about average. Here, we are probably one of the smaller teams. Every team seems like they are huge here. It's the best of the best, so we expect that. We expect every game to be a challenge."
If Waipio wins, they would play the winner of Ohio and New Jersey on Monday. A loss would send them into an elimination game tomorrow against the loser of Ohio and New Jersey.