Central East Maui advanced to the Little League World Series today with a 4-1 win over Arizona to capture the West Region final over Arizona in San Bernardino, Calif.
Winning pitcher Logan Kuloloia, who had a solo homer to help his cause in the sixth, gave up two hits to the first three batters he faced and none the rest of the way to pick up the complete-game win. Starting Arizona pitcher Juan Abril was tagged with the loss.
Arizona broke out on top with back-to-back hits in the first inning to produce a 1-0 lead. A one-out triple down the right-field line by Juan Hernandez set up an RBI single to left by Cristobal Lorta to give the Sunnyside Little League team from Tucson, Ariz., an early 1-0 advantage.
Maui would need a couple of innings to steady itself and did just that in the top of the third.
Duke Aloy got things started with an infield hit. He went to second on a single to right by Isaac Imamura. After both runners moved up on a two-out wild pitch by Abril, Arizona manager Francisco Rivero wanted to issue an intentional pass to Jaren Pascual, but couldn’t because of the wild pitch. You can only issue an intentional pass at the start of the count against the batter.
A second-ball pitch that appeared outside was called a strike. The next pitch caught too much of the plate and Pascual launched it over the left-center-field fence for a three-run homer that gave the Wailuku squad a 3-1 advantage. It was the first home run for Maui in the West Regional.
The second was a bomb to straight-away center off reliever Francisco Rivero Jr., the coach’s son, by Kuloloia, who pitched well down the stretch. He finished with five strikeouts, no walks and yielded only the two first-inning hits. He set the side down in order in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. He allowed two batters to reach base in the third when he hit both, but struck out Izaiah Moraga to end the threat. The crafty lefty retired the final 10 batters he faced.
The Central East Maui team moves on to Williamsport, Pa., to try to give the state back-to-back Little League World Series champions. Honolulu won the championship last year. The last time a state won back-to-back LLWS titles was in 2006-07 (Georgia). Hawaii also won championships in 2005 and 2008.