Waipio’s gritty Little League team, coming through the loser’s bracket, stunned Georgia and its ace Jacob Pate, 12-5, today to advance to the United States championship game in the Little League World Series game at Williamsport, Pa.
Waipio lost its opening game to Georgia last Saturday but came back to eliminate New Jersey and Ohio before beating Georgia twice, 7-4 yesterday and again today.
Waipio will play Texas for the U.S. title game tomorrow at 10 a.m. Hawaii time on ABC. That game will follow the International championship game between Taipei and Japan.
The winners play Sunday for the World Series title.
If they make it that far, it would be five games in five days for Hawaii, a tiring schedule more appropriate for major leaguers than Little Leaguers.
Noah Shackles doesn’t mind.
"I’m pumped," the 13-year-old third baseman said.
Georgia scored four runs in the top of the third for a 4-0 lead, but Waipio rallied, keyed by a video replay challenge by Waipio manager Brian Yoshii that overturned an out on a stolen base attempt.
The runner, Ty DeSa, was called out for the second out in the bottom of the third. But with the call overturned, DeSa, went back to second with one out. He advanced to third on a groundout to second and scored on a wild pitch to cut it to 4-1.
Waipio used wildness by Pate to put two runners on. Then Shackles hit a ball that went off the glove of a hard-charging centerfielder for a triple that scored two runs. A wild pitch scored the tying run.
"They didn’t give up, and they’ll do whatever it takes to win," Yoshii said.
Waipio took a 7-4 in the bottom of the fourth on DeSa’s double that broke a 4-all tie and put runners on second and third. With the infield in, Shiloh Baniaga’s grounder went through shortstop for a tough error, allowing two runs to score for a 7-4 lead.
Georgia tallied a run in the top of the fifth to make it 7-5. Kahoea Akau was the defensive standout in the inning, turning in a double play and getting an assist for the final out.
In the bottom of the fifth, DeSa singled in a run and Baniaga hit a two-run single through a drawn-in infield for a 10-5 lead. Kaimana Bartolome’s bloop single made it 11-5. A passed ball made it 12-5.
Georgia ace Jacob Pate held Hawaii last week to two runs and one hit in a 6-2 win in last week’s tournament opener for both teams. On Friday, Pate allowed seven runs, four hits and three walks.
"It was a little easier because we had seen him before and had hit him a little bit," DeSa said. "We knew his pitches. We were ready for him."
Hawaii won its second straight game over Georgia in a matchup of local leagues going for a second Little League crown — Georgia won in 2006, and Hawaii two years later.
"I felt pretty confident with a 4-0 lead and Jacob on the mound, but give them credit. They really shortened their swings and put that ball in play," said manager Randy Morris, who also guided the 2006 club.
After Kahoea Akau caught the last out on a popup, the 4-foot-11 second baseman threw the ball down hard to the turf and joined his teammates to exchange handshakes with the Southeast champs. Families and friends in the stands cheered as some waved ti leaves they had been carrying for good luck.