SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. » In a pitcher’s duel that could have gone either way, one mistake was all it took last night in the Little League West Regional tournament at Al Houghton Stadium.
Unfortunately for Waipio Little League of Waipahu, it was the one that made the mistake.
Tyler Kushima was thrown out at the plate after trying to score on a throwing error in the sixth inning, and the 11- and 12-year-old Hawaii champion All-Stars were beaten by Southern California champion Ocean View Little League of Huntington Beach 2-1 in a taut, well-played game in front of about 6,500 fans at Al Houghton Stadium that had the feel and pressure of a regional championship.
"Great game," Waipio manager Brian Yoshii said. "There are some areas of improvement we can make. Our best baseball is ahead of us."
It was the opening pool-play game for Waipio. It returns to the field at 2 p.m. Hawaii time today to play Northern California champion Napa National.
The top four teams in the six-team pool play advance to the semifinals, which will be televised by ESPN. The winner of the regional advances to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., where a Waipio team won the world championship two years ago.
Trailing 2-1 in the sixth inning, Kushima walked with one out, and Ocean View pitcher Steven Gingery was pulled because of a pitch limit.
Shiloh Baniaga then swung at a ball that bounced in front of the plate. Relief pitcher Logan Pouelsen fielded it cleanly, but he fired the ball down the right-field line.
Kushima wheeled his way to third base, rounded, hesitated, then tried to score. First baseman Nick Pratto took the relay throw from right fielder Hunter Jackson, then rifled a bullet to catcher Hagen Danner, who easily tagged Kushima for the second out of the inning.
"There was some confusion there," Yoshii said.
Said Ocean View coach Tod Minato: "I thought he did hesitate and was trying to find the ball as he rounded third. But that throw was pretty errant, and Hunter had a long run to it. But if he didn’t back that up, that runner would have easily scored."
The game got off to a rousing start for Waipio as second baseman Kaho’ea Akau belted a home run over the right-field fence on the third pitch of the game as the large crowd was settling in. It was Akau’s second home run of the season and the first hit off Gingery.
"We were anxious to get on the field," Akau said, referring to Waipio being the last of the 12 teams at the regional to have played. "I think (the home run) made us a lot more confident, and it pumped us up."
The lead was short-lived, as Ocean View tied the game in the bottom of the first when Chad Minato walked, went to second on a passed ball, to third on a groundout and scored on a single by Danner.
The game stayed tied until the fourth, when Gingery laced a line-drive home run over the right-field fence for what proved to be the winning run.