Little League team savors win in World Series
Waipi'o did it the hard way, rallying for four runs in the top of the sixth and final scheduled inning for a 5-2 victory against Coeur d'Alene (Idaho) to win the Northwest Region Major Division Tournament yesterday at Al Houghton Stadium in San Bernardino, Calif.
"Oh, wow, this is great," said Clyde Tanabe, manager of the Waipi'o team composed of 11- and 12-year-olds. "The kids are ecstatic."
The last team from Hawai'i to reach Williamsport was Pearl City in 1988, which advanced to the championship game before losing 10-0 to Taiwan.
Despite trailing 2-1 in the final inning, Tanabe said the players were confident.
"They were OK," Tanabe said. "They said, 'Here we go guys, our last stand.' They came out smoking. They were getting pumped and pumped. They refocused."
"Everybody was excited, pumped," said Isaac Moises, who hit a two-run double to cap the rally.
Waipi'o loaded the bases with no outs on two hits and a walk. A wild pitch allowed the tying run.
With two outs and runners at second and third, pinch-hitter Jonathan Abe's infield hit scored the go-ahead run.
After an intentional walk to Kurt Tanabe filled the bases, Moises hit a two-run double to left-center for a 5-2 lead.
Moises, 11, who attends Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Pearl City, said he was looking for a fastball and "they gave me fastball. When I made contact I was just excited."
Idaho had scored two unearned runs to take a 2-1 lead.
"I made so much errors I thought I lost the game," said shortstop Tanabe, whose error opened the way for Idaho's two-run rally.
But it was Tanabe, a Highlands Intermediate student, who put Waipi'o in position.
Tanabe earned three victories in the region. He struck out 13 in a
9-3 win against Montana Aug. 3, pitched a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts in an 8-1 win over Alaska last Wednesday and struck out 12 in a 5-3 win over Washington Saturday that put Waipi'o in the final.
"Coming off the Washington victory, that was a big boost right there, cuz they were kicking everybody's (butt)," said Tanabe, 12, who has been playing baseball for eight years.
Waipi'o will be just one of 16 teams in the World Series that includes teams from Venezuela, Japan, Mexico and Russia.
"Our goal was just to get to Moloka'i, the states," Kurt Tanabe said. "It was a dream just to get here."
Waipi'o will play Friday against New England Region champion, Jesse Burkett of Worcester, Mass.
Other teams earning berths:
Valencia, Venezuela (Latin American Region); Sendai, Japan (Asia); Curacao, Netherlands Antilles (Caribbean); Monterrey, Mexico (Mexico); Moscow, Russia (Europe); Louisville (Great Lakes); Clemmons, N.C. (Southeast); North Regina, Saskatchewan (Canada); Fort Worth, Texas (Southwest); Agana, Guam (Pacific); Web City, Mo. (Midwest) and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (Transatlantic). Two others are to be determined.
Hawai'i teams that reached the Little League World Series before Pearl City in 1988 were Pearl Harbor (1958), Windward (1959), Pearl Harbor (1960), American, Hilo (1961), Wahiawa (1971) and Community, Pearl City (1972). No team from Hawai'i has won the series title.
Little League Baseball is the largest organized youth sports program in the world, with nearly 3 million participants from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.
The Little League Baseball World Series is the culmination of the world's largest elimination tournament, with more than 16,000 games played during a six-week period on six continents.