The Central East Maui baseball team needed part of two days to accomplish one of its main goals at this year’s Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., — win the first two games. And that’s exactly what happened as the Maui little leaguers held on for a 6-0 victory over Elizabeth, N.J., today to remain perfect in this 16-team tournament that includes 11- and 12-year-olds from all across the country and around the world.
The victory sets up a big showdown on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. Hawaii time against fellow unbeaten in the United States side of the bracket, South Riding, Va. All the Southeast Region representative has done so far is no-hit both squads it played as this talented team prepares for the West Region representative.
Leading by six runs with one out in the fifth during Sunday’s second game of the double-elimination tournament, the Wailuku lads exited the world stage after lightning struck within 8 miles of the stadium, meaning there would be at least a 30-minute delay. That turned into much longer when the skies opened up that led to the suspension.
The Central East Maui Little League team wouldn’t necessarily call Sunday’s downpour that suspended its game with Elizabeth, N.J., a blessing. After all, a day that could have been used for rest and relaxation turned into an eight-out game with Central East Maui coming away with the win.
The game resumed with the Mid-Atlantic region’s Sal Garcia at first and J.R. Rosado at the plate with one out. Maui reliever Isaac Imamura was back on the hill. He already had an inning of relief for eventual winning pitcher Logan Kuloloia, who exited the mound and went out to left field with one out in the fourth inning after 61 pitches. He gave up no runs on two hits, striking out three and walking two. Imamura pitched one inning of relief on Sunday and got the last five outs today to secure the win.
Central East Maui got off to a fast start again much like in the Little League opener on Friday. After Mid-Atlantic starting pitcher J.R. Rosado retired the first two batters, he faced dangerous hitter Jaren Pascual. The winning pitcher for Maui in Friday’s victory over River Ridge of Louisiana, Pascual packs a powerful bat as well and showed it Sunday.
Down 0-2 in the count, Pascual launched a lazy curve over the left-field fence, only the second home run in that park since the start of the tournament on Thursday, giving the West a 1-0 advantage after one.
The Wailuku team added two more runs in the second, thanks in part to some shoddy fielding by New Jersey. Kamahao Akina opened the second by getting hit by a pitch. He was safe at second on a bad throw by the pitcher on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Kuloloia. With two men aboard and one out, Marley Sebastian put down a hard bunt that New Jersey third baseman Derek Escobar fielded cleanly.
He should have stepped on third for the second out, but instead fired it across the mound to first only to discover no one was on the bag. The errant throw plated both Maui runners to extend the local kids’ advantage to 3-0 after two.
New Jersey got two runners on board in the third to pose a mild threat with its best hitters at the plate, but Kuloloia got Jayden Capindica to fly out to deep right to end the inning as Maui held its three-run advantage. Maui managed a threat of its own in the bottom half of the third as the first two batters reached safely; a single by Imamura back through the box and a walk to Brandyn Wong. Nakea Kahalehau chased Rosado with a one-out single to left to load the bases.
Garcia came in to face pinch hitter Nicholas Nashiwa, who lined a bases-clearing double down the left-field line to give Maui a 6-0 lead. Nashiwa went to third on the throw to the plate, but remained there after Garcia got out of the inning with two strikeouts, but the damage was done.