LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES
Waipio's Tanner Tokunaga followed through on a fifth-inning grand slam off Tampa, Fla., pitcher Darren Miller at the Little League World Series yesterday.
Waipio wins again
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SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. » Pikai Winchester drove in three runs and Waipio overcame an early two-run deficit to beat Tampa, Fla., 10-2 yesterday at the Little League World Series.
Today: Waipio vs. Rapid City, S.D., 9 a.m., ESPN2; KKEA 1420-AM.
Wednesday: Semifinals, 2 p.m., ESPN2; KKEA 1420-AM.
Down 2-0, Winchester had an RBI single to start the scoring in a four-run third inning for undefeated Hawaii. He added a two-run double in the fourth.
Tanner Tokunaga sealed the game with a grand slam to center in the fifth.
Reliever Trevor Ling settled Hawaii down on the mound after Florida plated two runs in the first inning. Ryan McCullers and Michael McGuire both scored that inning on wild pitches by Hawaii starter Khade Paris.
Wyatt Reid and Danny Lastra each added two hits for Florida.
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Khade Paris started on the mound for Waipio last night but had to move to first base after hurting his elbow.
Waipio takes out Tampa
SOUTH WILIAMSPORT, Pa. » Trevor Ling admitted he was nervous.
Tanner Tokunaga gave the biggest smile as he rounded the bases and jumped into his teammates' arms after a fifth-inning grand slam.
Pikai Winchester just continued to rip opposing pitchers.
Tokunaga and Winchester were a combined 4-for-6 with seven RBI and three runs scored, while Ling picked up the victory after throwing three strong innings of relief last night, leading Waipio to a 10-2 victory over Tampa, Fla., in the second round of pool play at Lamade Stadium during the Little League World Series.
Waipio moved to 2-0 in Pool B and assured itself a berth in the single-elimination bracket that begins Wednesday. Florida and Connecticut will battle for the other spot.
For Tampa, it was the team's first loss in nearly two years.
"Basically, we came into this game pretty blind," Waipio manager Timo Donahue said, "knowing that it was going to come down to three teams in our pool. In comparison to the teams in the West Regional, I think that really helped us to prepare for this and to play Florida. We faced a lot of good teams going through there."
While all the talk at the LLWS has centered on the dominance and power of Florida's lineup after two consecutive mercy-rule victories in the Southeast Regional final and Friday's opening game in South Williamsport, the loss didn't shock Citrus Park manager Joe McGuire.
In fact, during a tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., several of the kids on Florida's team were handed a loss to the same Nevada squad that Waipio beat in the West Regional final.
"This team has had a little thing in the past where we've gone on cruise control when we've got up to start off a game," McGuire said. "I told them that you can't do that against good teams. And that's something that we did today. We got a 2-0 lead and their pitchers were throwing strikes and our kids were looking at them. We had a lot of strikeouts. Our kids just didn't swing the bats.
"I told the kids and the parents in our first meeting that, sooner or later, we were going to lose a baseball game. You hope that it came in pool play, and not in a semifinal game. Hawaii is a good team, there's no doubt. And we knew that coming in."
Pitching depth hasn't been a concern for Hawaii. Even when Khade Paris struggled and gave up two runs on wild pitches in the first inning, the Waipio coaching staff never blinked an eye.
Tokunaga relieved Paris in the first, and Ling entered in the third with Hawaii still trailing 2-0. Little did he know at the time, he was going to be the winning pitcher because his teammates were going to plate 10 runs over the next three innings.
"I was really nervous coming in," said Ling, who allowed two hits and registered four strikeouts. "I just tried to take some deep breaths to relax myself out there."
His teammates took care of Ling's nerves in the bottom of the third.
After a single through the right side of the infield by Christian Donahue, coupled with back-to-back walks to Tokunaga and Paris, Florida starter Kevin Merrell found himself in a world of trouble.
Winchester followed by ripping the first pitch he saw back up the middle to center. Christian Donahue scored, and Tokunaga crossed home when center fielder Levi Gilcrease unleashed a throw from center that sailed to the backstop. A Ling sacrifice fly to right plated the go-ahead run for a 3-2 Waipio lead, and Caleb Duhay hustled to beat out an infield single that plated Hawaii's fourth run of the frame.
"I just wanted to get a base hit to start off the inning, that's what I was hoping for," said Christian Donahue, who finished 2-for-4 with three runs scored. "I was pretty happy when my teammates kept driving me in."
A two-run double by Winchester to the left-center-field gap in the fourth increased Waipio's lead to 6-2, and Tokunaga sent the Hawaii faithful into a frenzy the following inning.
After Jedd Andrade and Keelen Obedoza were both hit by Darren Miller pitches, an error on a ball hit to third by Christian Donahue loaded the sacks and Tokunaga delivered when he crushed a grand slam to straight-away center for a commanding, 10-2 lead.
"He just hung his curveball, and I hit it pretty good," Tokunaga said. "It is pretty exciting to hit a grand slam here."
After struggling to find the timely hit against Connecticut on Friday night, it wasn't a problem yesterday, as Waipio totaled seven hits and only left five stranded on base.
"Khade Paris was hurt in the West Regional, and coming into this tournament, we wanted to see how he was doing," Timo Donahue said. "We weren't going to throw him unless Khade said he was OK. He started the game, but we took him out because he said his elbow was hurting. I think we are pretty deep in pitching. Two of them do play in the middle infield, so we try to work around that. Trevor has done a good job for us."
Hawaii LLWS notes
Iolana Akau, who was hit in the arm with a pitch during Friday's game with Connecticut, was scratched late from the lineup last night. During a televised broadcast on ESPN on Saturday, Akau said he is expected to play later this week at the World Series. ... Despite clinching the No. 1 seed, Waipio still has one pool-play game remaining today against South Dakota, which is winless. Waipio, because of the top seed in its pool, will play at 2 p.m. Hawaii time Wednesday at Lamade Stadium against the second-place team in the other American pool. ... Waipio has displayed its pitching depth in the LLWS, using a total of six pitchers in two games with each one effectively shutting down the opponent's offense, holding them to a mere .190 batting average at the plate. ... Winchester and Tokunaga are having an amazing LLWS, both hitting at a .600 clip. Both are 3-for-5 with one home run and four RBI. As a team, Waipio is batting .273 with 13 runs scored.