Hilo rolls into Ripken title game
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By Carlin Cook
Special to The Advertiser
By Carlin Cook
ABERDEEN, Md. — Hilo rode the arm and bat of Ridge Hoopii-Haslam into the championship game of the Cal Ripken World Series, posting a convincing 8-1 win over Bryant, Ark., in the U.S. Championship game before 2,500 at Cal Sr.'s Yard last night.
Hilo will face Mexico at 11 a.m. Hawai'i time today.
Hoopii-Haslam hit a three-run homer in a six-run third inning that gave Hilo a 6-1 lead. He also dominated on the mound after taking over in relief in the second inning, shutting out Bryant and striking out 10.
"It took us a few innings to get going, but once we got the gates open we did well," Hilo manager Kaha Wong said.
The gates were crashed by Hoopii-Haslam's three-run blast, which came with no outs in the third. The homer to left field not only cleared the fence but also a large truck and was estimated at about 270 feet.
The rally continued with singles by Kean Wong and Ekolu Martins, and an RBI double by Kawika Pruett that sent Wong home. Jordan Jinbo then hit a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Martins and a wild throw home allowed Pruett to score as Hilo batted around to take its 6-1 lead.
Hoopii-Haslam gave up just one hit and walked three in five innings and struck out seven in a row in one stretch.
In the second inning, Martins walked the first batter and was replaced by Hoopii-Haslam, who struck out the side to end the inning.
When Bryant came up to bat in the third, Hoopii-Haslam struck out the side again.
Hoopii-Haslam struck out his seventh batter in a row to start the fourth. He then walked two batters and allowed one hit.
But the pitcher snuffed out the threat by bare-handing a soft liner hit just to the right of the mound.
Hoopii-Haslam said he was surprised he made the catch in that fashion.
"It was a last-minute reaction," he said.
Hilo added two runs in the fifth to put the game out of reach. Pruett smacked a triple to deep right field and scored on a single by Jinbo. Kian Kurokawa then punched a single up the middle that skipped over the first base bag, sending home Jinbo with Hilo's eighth run.
Hoopii-Haslam was chosen for the Ron Tellefsen Player of the Game Award.
Hilo manager Wong said his team is ready for Mexico, but it will not be easy.
"We got our number one (pitcher Pruett) going and they have their number one going," he said, "so we'll see who wins."
Mexico (6-0) defeated the Dominican Republic, 2-1, yesterday to win the International title in the tournament for players age 12 and under.
Hilo's hitting has been impressive in the World Series, averaging .366 in six games. Hilo pitching also has been strong with a 1.27 ERA. Only Mexico's ERA has been better at 0.50.
Mexico has 65 strikeouts and only five walks in six games, winning three in shutouts.
In the 2003 championship game, Mexico defeated Hilo, also managed by Wong. In last year's championship, a team from O'ahu defeated Mexico, 1-0.