Dane Kaneshiro will have a lot of teammates to ask for advice about playing baseball on the mainland.
Kaneshiro pitched five strong innings and delivered a clutch RBI single to help Waipio defeat Central East Maui 10-6 to claim the Little League state championship for 11- and 12-year-olds yesterday at Pride Field in Barbers Point.
Waipio advances to play in the West Regional Tournament beginning next Friday in San Bernardino, Calif. Its opening game will be Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Hawaii time against a representative from Southern California.
"The reason why we are such a good team is because all 13 of (them) contribute," manager Brian Yoshii said. "Some guys are better defensively, but the great thing about this game is I can substitute.
"We really used everybody for their talents and from top to bottom, one to 13, they all did a great job."
Most of the team has played in mainland tournaments at younger ages. Kaneshiro isn’t one of them, but did his part to join in on the fun.
He struck out 11 in five innings and delivered the big RBI single in a six-run fifth inning. Kaneshiro’s single up the middle with the bases loaded got away from the Central East Maui centerfielder, allowing all three runs to score to give Waipio a 9-5 lead.
"I just wanted to help our team get us back the runs," Kaneshiro said. "I’m excited."
The two teams played earlier in the tournament with Waipio edging out a 3-2 win in seven innings.
Central East Maui scored more in the first inning than in the previous meeting, taking a 3-0 lead on a throwing error.
Kaneshiro allowed three hits in the inning, but only one over the next four.
"The only thing that was working for him was his fastball," Yoshii said. "Everything else wasn’t working but he has a lot of heart and a lot of character."
Central East Maui starter Lane Kashiwamura retired Waipio in order in the first, but lost his command to open the bottom of the second. A walk and two hit batters loaded the bases with nobody out, and a wild pitch brought in Waipio’s first run.
Keolu Ramos followed with an RBI single and Justice Nakagawa hit a sacrifice fly to center to tie the game 3-3.
Colby Tam hit a two-run homer to put Central East Maui back in front in the third.
The 2009 state champions were six outs away from forcing a winner-take-all game today when Waipio exploded in the fifth.
The first six batters all reached base and eventually scored. Kahoea Akau, the only Waipio player with multiple hits in the game, singled to load the bases. Ty DeSa was hit by a pitch to bring in the tying run and Noah Shackles hit the go-ahead RBI single before Kaneshiro’s hit gave Waipio the necessary insurance runs to win the state title for the fourth time in the last five years.
"It was just a matter of time," said Yoshii, whose team had only two hits through the first four frames. "These kids never give up."
Waipio will play in the regional tournament for the first time since 2008, when it went all the way to win the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Central East Maui, which didn’t make it out of the regional last year, rallied for one last run in the sixth inning.
"They did their best and I’m proud of them," coach Hanalei Inciong said. "(Waipio) came out and played hard just as much as us."