Waipio held off Georgia, 7-4, today to force a winner-take-all game tomorrow against the same Georgia team in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Tomorrow’s game will be 8 a.m. Hawaii time and will be telecast on either ESPN or ESPN2.
Justice Nakagawa hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the third and Noah Shackles struck out nine to lead the team from Hawaii.
Hawaii put two runners on in the third with two outs when Nakagawa drove an 0-2 pitch over the right-centerfield wall for a 5-0 lead.
His teammates couldn’t stop laughing when Nakagawa tried to answer a question about his momentous night.
"It felt really good because that was my first hit," the 12-year-old infielder said, trying to contain his own giggles.
Waipio built a 7-1 lead going to the sixth and final scheduled inning before Georgia rallied. Kobie Buglioli had two RBIs, and Georgia scored three runs in the sixth before relief pitcher Keolu Ramos finished and got a groundout to end the game.
Starting right-hander Shackles earned the victory, pitching 5 2/3 innings and striking out nine before being removed because he reached the 85-pitch limit.
Waipio opened the World Series with a 6-3 loss to Georgia and had to beat New Jersey and Ohio to advance to face Georgia, which had been unbeaten until today.
Hawaii managed just one hit in yesterday’s 6-4 win over Ohio. Waipio had 10 hits tonight. Manager Brian Yoshii spoke to the team after yesterday’s win.
"We talked to the kids about the embarrassment of one hit to show up … not every night are we going to be as lucky as we were," he said.
Tomorrow’s winner will face Texas in the U.S. championship Saturday. Texas advanced earlier today with a 7-5 victory over Washington.
Waipio came to the World Series with a 13-game winning streak.
Both teams come from local leagues that have previously won the Little League title: Georgia in 2006, and Hawaii in 2008. Until now, Georgia manager Randy Morris has been trying to avoid comparisons with his old team.
"This might be a time when I do bring up the ’06 team because, we lost a game up here that year and still wound up winning the whole thing," he said. "It’s going to be tough for them, but it’s tough anyway."