SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. » Randy Morris had a specific strategy.
If he had to burn ace Jacob Pate, that was fine as long as the win was secure. The Columbus North Little League, Ga., manager wanted to make sure he saved his No. 2, Troy Gilliland, for later in the week.
Everything went according to plan for the Southeast Regional champs.
Ty DeSa’s two-run homer gave Waipio a 2-0 lead in the first, only to see Columbus answer with four in its half of the inning — thanks to a two-run single by Brandon Pugh and two-run homer by Knox Carter. The Georgia squad added two insurance runs in the fifth en route to a 6-2 victory yesterday at Lamade Stadium.
Gilliland entered in the fifth, and closed it out with 33 pitches, meaning he is eligible to go tomorrow in Georgia’s next game against Hamilton, Ohio.
"We had a plan in place, knowing that the West is probably one of the strongest teams here," Morris said. "If we had to burn Jacob, that was OK. We wanted to start out strong in this series, and we did. I think that you saw that he athleted his way through the game, sort of speaking."
Pate, Columbus’ ace, while holding Waipio to one hit, struggled with his control. He needed 40 pitches just to get through the first inning, and never made it past the fourth. He struck out seven batters, but walked four — three of them in the first.
"Jacob struggled all game," Morris said. "He never got into a groove that he is used to being in. He battled his way through it. He got the job done. That’s all that counts."
Waipio’s Noah Shackles also threw well enough. He held Georgia to three hits, and struck out five. Georgia only had eight players on base in six innings, but six of them scored.
It looked like Waipio would hit the knockout blow before Columbus even took a swing against Shackles.
Kaho’ea Akau walked to start, and DeSa drove both of them home, ripping a pitch just over the wall in right field for a 2-0 lead two batters into the game.
The locals loaded the bases with one out when Kaimana Bartolome and Tyler Kushima were issued free passes by Pate,and Shackles was drilled by a pitch. But Bartolome was thrown out at home trying to score on a pitch past catcher Blake Hicks, and Pate struck out the final batter, keeping the damage to two runs.
"It felt really good to jump out to a lead," Waipio manager Brian Yoshii said. "He (Pate) was a hard-throwing pitcher, and it gave our guys some confidence. Georgia has a solid team. We just didn’t perform as well as we could have. I don’t know if it was nerves or not. They are just 12-year-old kids."
Georgia rallied in its first at-bat.
Hicks and Pate drew free passes to open up the game, and Pugh followed with a single back up the middle, scoring both of his teammates, knotting the game at 2.
Two pitches later, Carter gave Columbus the lead for good — crushing a low fastball on the outside corner well over the left-field fence for a 4-2 lead.
"It was fun," Carter said. "It’s like a dream that’s come true. When I saw it off the bat, I knew that it would be good."
DesSa had both of Hawaii’s hits — the homer in the first and a one-out gapper in the fifth that left him standing on second.
"Noah did a nice job. He wasn’t quite as sharp as usual, but he definitely pitched a very nice game," Yoshii said. "The strategy was to keep with Noah, and that was fine. As long as we were still in the game, we wanted to keep him in. Even though we were down two runs, we still feel like we had a chance."
Georgia added two in the fifth as both Hicks and Pugh scored on wild pitches.
Waipio sparked a little rally in its final at-bat. Kushima drew a walk and an error by the second baseman put Shackles on. But two strikeouts by Gilliland sandwiched a 6-4 fielder’s choice to end the threat.
"When we lost to Southern California, we used that as motivation to get back and play them again," Yoshii said. "It’s a longer journey back, but we will work hard and play with heart and passion. We just have to play our game. I have confidence if we could do that, we’ll be just fine. It’s always been one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, one game at a time."
Yesterday’s loss was Waipio’s second of the all-star season. The first was a 2-1 defeat to Steve Gingery and Southern California at the West Regional. The local boys went on to win that regional. … Shackles finished with a total of 79 pitches, 47 of those for strikes. Because of the new rules instituted by Little League in 2010, the youngster can’t throw again until Thursday. … Hawaii’s next game will be today against Toms River, N.J., a 16-6 loser to Hamilton, Ohio, yesterday. The loser of that contest is eliminated from the World Series, while the winner plays again on Tuesday. Today’s game begins at 8 a.m. Hawaii time.