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Finally, safe

After surviving four consecutive elimination games, Waipio advances to the American final, playing Texas

By Tom Fox / Special to the Star-Advertiser

LAST UPDATED: 7:25 a.m. HST, Aug 28, 2010

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. » It was probably the biggest obstacle Waipio faced in its 2010 all-star season.

Down four runs with only four more at-bats left and standing on the mound was Georgia's Jacob Pate, probably the hardest-throwing youngster at the Little League World Series. And Waipio had yet to score against the big ace.

As it has the entire series, Waipio just found a way to win.

The Hawaii team scored four runs in the bottom of the third, and then tacked on eight more in the ensuing two frames to move into the American final today with a 12-5 victory over Columbus North, Ga.

Up next is Pearland, Texas, which had to shake off a pesky Auburn, Wash., squad earlier in the week. Japan and Taiwan will battle for the international championship.

Waipio has fought off four consecutive elimination games, while Georgia's only two setbacks in all-star play have come to Hawaii.

"That's their heart," Waipio manager Brian Yoshii said. "These boys just never give up."

With Pate on the mound, everyone thought runs were going to be hard to come by.

When Georgia scored four in its at-bat in the third, highlighted by a two-run double by Brandon Pugh, and Cason Sizemore's RBI single to center, everyone thought the ballgame might be determined.

That included Columbus North manager Randy Morris.

"I did feel good with a four-run lead and Jacob on the mound," he said. "But Hawaii just fights. They battle. A dink here. A dink there. An error here. All of a sudden, they are right back in the game."

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Noah Shackles' two-run triple in the third was huge. It's hard to really put a value on it because it cut the lead significantly.

Perhaps, though, the biggest play was Yoshii's replay challenge when Ty DeSa was initially ruled out on an attempted steal of second during Shiloh Baniaga's at-bat. After Yoshii used his manager replay, the call was overturned.

"I can't take credit for that," Yoshii said. "That's to Ty's credit. He's the one who put up the red flag, convincing me he was safe."

The decision to send DeSa down 4-0 was a gutsy one.

"Coach Kiha (Akau) called it," Yoshii said. "It was a good decision, we needed to be a little aggressive."

"I thought he was safe," Morris said. "I thought that Brandon had the glove on the wrong side of the bag."

DeSa later scored on a passed ball, and with two on, Shackles ripped his big triple to center. He later scored on a wild pitch, and all of a sudden, Waipio was in a 4-all game.

"I didn't know if it would fall," Shackles said. "I'll take it because I thought the fielder was going to catch it. It got us all fired up, and we went on to score four runs in that inning."

The top of Hawaii's order finished it off in the fourth and fifth.

Those four youngsters -- Kaho'ea Akau, DeSa, Baniaga and Kaimana Bartolome -- combined for six of Waipio's seven hits, and scored seven of the 12 runs.

DeSa's double to center in the fourth scored Justice Nakagawa, and Baniaga added a two-run single past Georgia's drawn-in infield and Waipio had a 7-4 lead before scoring five runs in the fifth off Columbus North relief pitchers Jalen Latta and Kobie Buglioli.

"I really challenged the top of our order," Yoshii said. "I told them that they were going to have to hit the ball and get on base. The top (of the order) had seen Jacob Pate three times in (last) Saturday's game. We needed them to get on base, swing at good pitches and spark us.

"The comeback is all about the kids. They don't give up, and do whatever it takes to win. They just battle, and battle, and battle. I felt confident coming in. Pate is an amazing pitcher, and Georgia is an excellent team. But we were hoping that we could make adjustments, and we knew they didn't see Shiloh yet."

Pate, despite running into some trouble spots in the first and second frames, couldn't escape danger in the third.

The Georgia starter lasted 3 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs -- six earned -- and striking out seven.

"The more times you get a look at a pitcher, the more prepared you are," Morris said. "Because they saw Jacob on Saturday, they probably had a good read on his speed, and they probably heated up the pitching machine in practice. Jacob showed a lot of emotion, and we tried to calm him down at times.

"He thought that he should have got a few more calls, but that's baseball, and the calls all even themselves out through a game. We are talking about 12- to 13-year-old baseball players. You don't know what's going to happen one inning to the next."

Waipio's starter, Baniaga, also made it through 3 2/3 innings -- allowing four runs. He struck out four, but he also walked four.

Up next is Pearland, Texas. The Southwest champs don't have their No. 1 pitcher, Mason Van Noort, available, but do have Beau Orlando, their No. 2.

Waipio won't have the services of Shackles, Baniaga or Dane Kaneshiro for the remainder of the LLWS, but the manager said he will use Ezra Heleski, Cody Maltezo, Keolu Ramos or Brysen Yoshii.

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