LITTLE LEAGUE U.S. CHAMPIONSHIP
Waipio catcher Iolana Akau celebrated his team's win over Lake Charles, La., in the United States Championship of the Little League World Series yesterday.
The World Awaits
Waipio rallies for six runs in the sixth inning to stun Lake Charles and move into the Little League World Series title game
» Never count them out
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SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. » Tanner Tokunaga doubled home two runs with the bases loaded with two outs to cap a dramatic six-run sixth inning that gave Waipio a come-from-behind, 7-5 win yesterday over Louisiana to advance to the Little League World Series title game.
Championship game: Waipio vs. Mexico, 9:30 a.m., KITV; KKEA 1420-AM.
Waipio's opponent today will be Matamoros, Mexico, which defeated Tokyo, 5-4, earlier yesterday for the international title.
Lake Charles, La., looked to be a lock to represent the United States when the boys from the Bayou state entered the top of the sixth with a 5-1 lead.
But Hawaii didn't quit.
"They've just always had this never-give-up attitude," Waipio manager Timo Donahue said.
Waipio Little Leaguers celebrated like crazy after winning the United States championship yesterday.
FULL STORY »
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. » Could anyone blame Charlie Phillips for his confidence with a four-run lead heading into the final inning?
WAIPIO VS. MEXICO
Waipio will play Mexico today for the Little League World Series championship
» When: 9:30 a.m.
» TV: KITV
The Louisiana manager sent out hurler Gunner Leger to close out the game. Leger had previously finished off Lake Charles' wins in the state and regional tournament finals.
Waipio had other plans, and wasn't going to let its season end now.
Twelve batters later and six runs tacked on the scoreboard at Lamade Stadium, Hawaii might have pulled off the greatest comeback in Little League World Series history, rallying to pull out an incredible 7-5 victory yesterday.
The win sends Waipio (5-0) into the World Championship game against Mexico, a 5-4 victor over Japan.
No other phrase in sports can describe it better than the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. And like everyone through the previous week had said: Waipio always finds a way to get it done.
The Hawaii boys, with their fans clad in powder blue shirts, in full jubilation, threw their gloves high in the air after winning pitcher Trevor Ling induced a groundout to Tanner Tokunaga for the victory. It was Tokunaga's two-run double that slipped underneath the glove of Lake Charles shortstop Kennon Fontenot to break the 5-all tie.
"I knew that he had a chance to get the ball," Tokunaga said, "but I knew it was going to take a lot of skill to get it, and he was it."
The Louisiana faithful stood in stunned silence, wondering how a four-run lead and hopes of a world title could slip away in the blink of an eye.
"Obviously, it didn't look too good heading into that sixth inning," Waipio manager Timo Donahue said. "I expected (Trey Quinn) to come out and pitch to one batter. We had a game plan as to how we were going to handle that. They sent the lefty (Leger) out, and we do pretty good against lefties. Like I tell these guys all the time: As long as we are within a grand slam, anything can happen."
Boy, did it ever.
Keelen Obedoza celebrated with teammate Jedd Andrade after they both scored during the sixth-inning rally.
A single to left by Tokunaga and Pikai Winchester's ground-rule double put runners in scoring position to start off the inning. Iolana Akau followed with an RBI single, and a 4-3 groundout by Khade Paris scored another.
Waipio was back in the game, 5-3. Leger, though, only needed two more outs.
"After we scored that first run, I felt pretty good about our chances," Christian Donahue said.
Caleb Duhay's frozen-rope single past Fontenot scored Akau and Waipio was within one.
It helped set the stage for the epic conclusion.
After Jedd Andrade's single to left and a walk to Keelen Obedoza, Waipio had the bases loaded, but Lake Charles only needed one more out.
Phillips switched pitchers, moving Leger to first and sending Peyton McLemore to the hill.
He got two strikes on Christian Donahue, but the Waipio shortstop sent a hard roller to first. Leger didn't field the ball cleanly, allowing the tying run to score.
Donahue provided one of the most picturesque moments of the World Series as he ran through the bag and started to jump up and down, clapping, once he realized the run had crossed the dish.
Christian Donahue leaped in the air after driving in the tying run.
Tokunaga's two-run double followed, and the miraculous comeback had become a reality.
"It was time for Trey to come out of the game," said Phillips, who pulled his starter after 82 pitches, three short of the Little League limit. "You could tell in the previous inning that he was leaving some balls up and it was time to make the move. There is no hindsight about it. We made the right moves, and made the right calls. It just didn't happen.
"Obviously in the dugout, you never want to panic. You always want the kids to know that you believe in them and you have confidence in them. Inside, though, there is a lot going on and you feel helpless. You can't control the game. I'm proud of the Hawaii guys because they were hitting the ball hard. They did a good job. You just do your best to support and be there for them."
Ling picked up his second victory of the LLWS, while Khade Paris threw well to begin the game -- allowing only one hit in three innings.
"Heading into that last inning with a four-run lead, it pretty much seemed like they were in command of the game," Timo Donahue said. "For the most part, they could feel good because it was hits mainly, and not walked batters. If I was in Charlie's shoes, I would have felt pretty good heading into that inning with three outs to go and up four runs. But that's why this game is played -- because anything can happen."
Lake Charles erased a 1-0 deficit in the third on a two-run single by Bryce Jordan and an RBI by Nicholas Abshire.
A home run by Fontenot and Abshire's second RBI increased Louisiana's lead to 5-1 in the fifth.
"Baseball is baseball. You always feel the same after it, but the emotions were a little higher today," Phillips said.
"We tried to put that half-inning behind us and we were ready to hit. We had to scrap, get on base and try to get some runs. I love these kids. I just got to enjoy the ride. They have a good future ahead of them, and this moment can't define them. All the things they did to this point got us here.
"Gunner got us this far. I just let him know that after the game. If he is going to compete and play athletics, these things are going to happen. This isn't the last time it's going to happen. This hurts right now, but I hope it's a good learning experience for them in the end."
Winchester finished 2-for-2, while Tokunaga and Akau each had two hits.