The Honolulu Little League team defeated South Korea today 3-0 to capture the Little League World Series Championship played in South Williamsport, Pa. Starting pitcher Ka‘olu Holt yielded only two singles and struck out eight en route to the complete-game victory.
It is the third world Little League title won by Hawaii.
The local kids won five games over 10 days, including four by shutout in what was a complete team effort. They scored one run in the first on a leadoff home run by Mana Lau Kong. He took the first pitch off losing pitcher Yeong Hyeon Kim deep to right-center to give the West representative a 1-0 lead it wouldn’t relinquish over the Asia-Pacific representative in this 32-team field from around the world.
“It was great,” Holt said, “because we all knew that pitcher was tough to hit.”
Hawaii added two more runs in the third after catcher Bruce Boucher drew a tough one-out walk by laying off a pitch on a 3-2 count. He went to second on pinch hitter Hunter Nishina’s sharp single to right and third after Jace Souza also walked.
With pinch hitter Caleb Okada at the plate, Kim uncorked a wild pitch that plated Zachary Won and fellow pinch runner Kory Chu, who scored when Korea catcher Gi Jeong Kim made a bad throw to Kim trying to get Won.
From there it was all Holt and a stellar defense that twice made huge plays with runners in scoring position to preserve the win. Third baseman Aukai Kea snagged a liner in the first with a man on second and Kong contributed with a snow cone of his own with a man on in the fourth.
This Hawaii team brought some positive vibes to a state that battled through Hurricane Lane last week. As Honolulu manager Gerald Oda likes to say, “It’s a great day.”
He said afterward to his team, “Stay humble. Enjoy the moment. But stay humble.”
Holt told ABC that it had always been his dream to play in the Little League World Series.
“But to win it all is amazing,” Holt said. Second baseman Sean Yamaguchi interjected, “This is my family right here. These are my brothers.”
Oda’s closing comments were fitting, “It’s a great, great time for us, but hats off to Korea, hats off to all the teams over here. It’s been an incredible experience and we can’t thank everyone enough.”
Seoul, South Korea, has played in the three of the last six LLWS title games, but won only once — in 2014. It lost in 2016 to Maine-Endwell, New York.
“It was equally the same thing, from 2016 to 2018,” South Korea manager Su Ji-hee, who was also a member of the coaching staff of the 2016 team, said through a translator. “After the game, the kids were crying, they feel sorry for themselves.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.