SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. » It’s part of the postgame routine.
Waipio cranks up some tunes that bounce through the air. One song in particular, Nelly’s "Heart of a Champion," continues to play on the speakers each night.
That pulse continues to beat on in South Williamsport at the Little League World Series.
Kaimana Bartolome and Noah Shackles each had two-run hits in the first inning and Waipio never looked back, tacking on three runs in the third and ending it in the fifth en route to a 10-0, mercy-rule victory yesterday over Pearland, Texas, in the United States Championship.
Hawaii will face off against Tokyo, Japan, in the world championship today at 9 a.m. Hawaii time. The game will be shown on KITV, Oceanic Cable Channel 6. Texas meets up with Taiwan in the consolation game. The Chinese lost to Japan, 3-2, yesterday in seven innings.
Ryo Motegi’s RBI single with two outs gave Japan the win.
"It was refreshing to start off strong," Waipio manager Brian Yoshii said. "Just winning a title in any possible way is great."
This is the perfect example of peaking at the right time.
Hawaii, which lost its first game of the Little League World Series one week ago, has been on a roll ever since.
That included four consecutive victories just to win its pool — knocking off New Jersey, Ohio and then Columbus North, Ga., on back-to-back days.
The Waipio defense has been there through the nine days of the series.
Now, the sticks are starting to light up the scoreboard.
After putting up 12 runs on Friday in the victory over Georgia, Hawaii wasted no time jumping on Texas starter Beau Orlando. Kaho’ea Akau was 3-for-3, while Shackles was 2-for-2 — including a two-run homer to straightaway center in the first for an early 4-0 lead.
In all, Waipio put 10 balls in play — four for extra bases. In the LLWS, the team is batting close to .300 and has scored 40 runs on 39 hits — including six home runs.
"It felt pretty good to hit one," said Shackles, who also scored three runs. "I really haven’t hit the ball well since our regional. It just felt good to get back to hitting."
Pearland’s high-octane offense never kicked the engine into gear against Waipio starter Ezra Heleski, poking only two balls into open gaps and getting shut down in nearly every inning.
Heleski, who pitched well in relief against Ohio, improved to 2-0. He struck out six, and walked only one.
He also helped himself at the dish, going 2-for-3, scoring twice and driving in two runs.
"I felt pretty good in my bullpen session," Heleski said. "I still felt good when I got on the mound. I was throwing strikes and got the batters out."
Texas’ lone hits came on a two-out infield single by Hunter Smith in the third, and Mason Van Noort’s one-out single in the fourth.
"I’m proud of the guys," Pearland manager Mike Orlando said. "I kept telling them that I didn’t care about the results. I tried to keep the spirits up, and I just kept reminding them that thousands of Little Leaguers would trade places with them in a second.
"I watched Hawaii hit the ball against Georgia. Pitching-wise, I thought that Beau did his job. He just didn’t hit some of his spots."
Waipio tacked on three in the third off RBIs by Heleski and Akau, while another crossed home on a wild pitch.
Hawaii finished it off two frames later, sending just four batters to the plate.
Shackles drew a full-count walk, and back-to-back hits by Cody Maltezo and Heleski gave Waipio a 9-0 lead; the deciding run was scored on a wild pitch to invoke the 10-run mercy rule.
"Ezra is a great pitcher. He didn’t get a chance to pitch in regionals, but I was happy that he got the opportunity to pitch on this stage," Yoshii said. "I told the defense they needed to step up and do whatever it took to help Ezra out."
For Waipio, it’s a chance to bring its second LLWS title back home. The United States has won the last five Little League World Series crowns, including a victory by Chula Vista, Calif., in 2009. West Oahu started the streak in 2005, while Georgia teams won it in 2006 and 2007 and then Waipio in 2008.
"Japan is scary to watch because they are so aggressive on the bases," Yoshii said. "It will be a lot of fun. The last four games, our backs have been against the wall, and we’ve taken it one game at a time. We’ll do the same thing again. The kids will leave it on the field and play their hearts out to make the community, state, West and United States proud."
Texas, which had a series-leading eight home runs, goes for third place at 5 a.m. Hawaii time.
"We are going to play to win," Orlando said. "I might let some of our other pitchers throw because they earned that right. We’re going to go into the game, and try to bring home third."
Waipio 10, Texas 0
|Orlando P,SS||3||0||0||0||K.Akau 2B||3||1||3||1|
|Toler 3B,RF||2||0||0||0||DeSa 1B||3||0||0||0|
|Gutierre 2B,P,SS||2||0||0||0||Baniaga LF||3||1||1||0|
|Van Noort 1B,3B||1||0||1||0||Bartolome C||2||0||1||2|
|Leger SPR,LF||1||0||0||0||Nakag PH,SS||1||1||0||0|
|J.Orlando C||1||0||0||0||Ramos C,PH||1||0||0||0|
|Maly 2B,RF||2||0||0||0||Campos SS||1||0||0||0|
|Smith CF,LF||2||0||1||0||Shackles 3B||2||3||2||2|
|Beshoory 2B||1||0||0||0||Kushima CF||1||1||0|
|0 Roblyer 1B,P||1||0||0||0||Maltezo CF||1||1||1||1|
|Bettencourt CF||1||0||0||0||Heleski P||3||2||2|
|2 Yoshii RF||1||0||0||0||Kaneshiro RF||1||0||0||0|
|SW||0 0 0||0 0||–||0||2||0|
|West||4 0 3||0 3||–||10||10||0|
2B–K.Akau (1), K.Bartolome (1). 3B–C.Maltezo (1). HR–N.Shackles (1).
RBI–K.Akau (2), K.Bartolome 2 (4), N.Shackles 2 (5), C.Maltezo (1),
E.Heleski 2 (2). HP–M.Van Noort (1), T.Kushima (2).
LOB–SW 4, West 4.
WP–B.Orlando 3, J.Roblyer 2. PB–J.Orlando 3. T–2:23. A–28,810
Waipio LLWS Stats
2B — DeSa 2, Akau, Bartolome, Kaneshiro. 3B — Martezo, Shackles. HR — DeSa 2, Shackles 2, Nakagawa 2, Bartolome, Campos, Kushima, Baniaga. SB — DeSa 2.
Saves — Kaneshiro 1