LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL
Waipio's Keelen Obedoza hit a two-run homer off Rapid City, S.D. yesterday.
Waipio comes back
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SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. » Keelen Obedoza hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning to break a tie and pitched a perfect sixth to lead Waipio to a 6-4 come-from-behind victory over Rapid City, S.D., at the Little League World Series.
Waipio is the 10th team from Hawaii to make it to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.:
Undefeated Hawaii (3-0) is guaranteed a spot in the U.S. semifinals tomorrow.
Cale Fierro tied the tight game at 4 in the top of the fifth with a homer. Hawaii went back ahead in the bottom of the inning after Kainoa Fong singled and Obedoza homered to center.
Obedoza then retired the side in order in the bottom of the sixth on nine pitches to earn the save. With a spot in the semifinals already wrapped up, Hawaii used seven pitchers in the game.
South Dakota (0-3) went winless in the first appearance for a team from the state at the World Series.
Trailing 1-0 early, South Dakota rallied for three runs in the fourth after scoring on a passed ball, an error and a hit batsman.
The nightcap featured an elimination game between Tampa, Fla., and Shelton, Conn., and Florida rallied late for an 8-2 win in seven innings to advance to the U.S. semifinals.
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Waipio's Pikai Winchester dove in ahead of the tag from Rapid City, S.D., third baseman Jonah Hanson.
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. » Keelen Obedoza started the game behind the plate. He ended it with a game-winning home run, and a save from the hill.
It was quite an afternoon for the Waipio Little Leaguer.
Obedoza hit a two-run homer over the fence in left-center field, and pitched well in the sixth as Waipio scored a 6-4, come-from-behind victory over South Dakota in the final Pool B game at the Little League World Series.
Hawaii, which finished 3-0 in pool play, already had the top seed in Pool B clinched coming into yesterday's game and will wait to find out its opponent for tomorrow's United States semifinal at Lamade Stadium.
For Obedoza, it was redemption after being struck with pitches in three previous at-bats. Finally, he was able to take a big swing at the baseball and watch it cut through the South Williamsport air.
"I haven't had a hit in a long time," he said. "I was pretty excited about the home run. I just kept working hard each time we took batting practice before the game."
It definitely wasn't what one would call your normal Little League World Series game. Then again, for Timo Donahue's Waipio boys, it got the job done.
Following Sunday's big victory over Tampa, Fla., 10-2, the Waipio manager promised members of the media that he was going to conserve his pitchers as much as possible.
That's exactly what he did.
Hawaii used seven different hurlers, who combined for a four-hitter with five strikeouts. Jedd Andrade, who threw in the fifth inning, picked up the victory despite allowing a game-tying home run to Cale Fierro to start off the frame. Thanks to Obedoza's two-run blast in the bottom of the fifth, Andrade was still the pitcher of record and earned the win.
Donahue was true to his promise as each hurler kept under the 20-pitch limit with the exception of Kainoa Fong and Andrade, who threw 22 and 23 pitches, respectively. That means everyone in his rotation, except those two boys, would be available for tomorrow's American semifinal.
"Basically, our goal was to make sure we saved our pitching," the Waipio manager said. "That's why we only allowed two pitchers to go over the 20 pitches. We used this game as more of a bullpen session for the guys who didn't pitch on a normal basis. On this team, every kid in the regular season has pitched. Once it became the postseason, we used everybody but three guys."
Coming into yesterday, South Dakota was just struggling to rope a hit anywhere - racking up a mere five in two games. Again, it looked like Rapid City was going to struggle as Christian Donahue, Tanner Tokunaga and Caleb Duhay didn't allow a safety though three innings.
Doug Simons' squad did get on the board in the fourth after a wild pitch and preceding error led to two runs and special pinch runner Alec Winter added the third for a surprising 3-1 lead over the Pool B champs.
It only lasted about 15 minutes.
A bases-loaded, two-run single by Khade Paris, and RBI double by Pikai Winchester - who was 2-for-3 and is hitting close to .600 in the World Series - erased the deficit and gave Waipio a one-run lead.
The bottom of the order got it done for Timo Donahue, as Fong, the No. 8 hitter, was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI in the second inning, knocking in Jordan Ulep. Obedoza, the ninth hitter, reached base in all three plate appearances and scored twice.
"It felt pretty good because that was my first hits in the Little League World Series," Fong said.
Fierro finished 2-for-3 for South Dakota with the home run and two runs scored.
"I was proud of the team. They just kept battling and battling," said Simons, whose team finished 0-3. "We had those first-game jitters to start against Florida, and we really only had one bad inning against Connecticut that cost us that game. I thought we played pretty well this game. Hawaii is a great team. This was the first time a team from South Dakota has made it this far, so that's a big accomplishment. You see it on TV and you know it's so big. But once you get here, it's bigger than you can really imagine.
"I'm sure it was tough to adjust to different pitchers, but they are used to it. With the rules that they have, you see that a lot in the regular season."
Now, Waipio plays the waiting game and has to sit back until today's Pool A games are completed to determine its next opponent.
As for preparation, nothing is going to chance. Timo Donahue said he knows which player will start on the mound, but he wouldn't tip his hand for members of the media after the game.
"We pretty much are going to prepare the same way we have," the Hawaii manager said.
Hawaii LLWS notes
Throwing out the first pitch for yesterday afternoon's game was Philadelphia Phillies' first baseman Ryan Howard. The former Little Leaguer and now MLB slugger was in South Williamsport representing Subway and stood most of the afternoon to greet LLWS visitors. ... Iolana Akau missed his second consecutive pool play game. The pitcher-catcher was hit in the arm by a pitch in Friday's game with Connecticut. When he went through the pregame line to slap his teammates' hands, he wasn't wearing a sling. Timo Donahue said Akau would be listed as day-to-day and he's hoping to have him back in the lineup for tomorrow's game. ... Hawaii's next opponent is yet to be determined as three teams are still alive in Pool A. Louisiana is 2-0, while Maryland and Washington are both 1-1. Washington will play Indiana today, while Louisiana and Maryland will match up. Waipio takes on the second-place team from that pool. ... As for the second-place team from Pool B, Florida defeated Connecticut 8-2 in seven innings. Tampa will take on the top-seeded squad from Pool A on Thursday. Both U.S. semifinals will be played at 2 p.m. Hawaii time in Lamade Stadium on their respective days.