Little League title retains baseball pride in Hawaii
A Waipio team has won the Little League world championship with a resounding victory over a Mexico team.
Credit Hawaii as the breeding ground for the national pastime, producing teams that have won Little League world championships twice in four years. Following Ewa Beach's title victory three years ago, a team from Waipio staged a stunning comeback for the national championship and then overwhelmed a Mexican team Sunday for the global medallion. As Yogi Berra once said, "It's like deja vu all over again."
At one point it seemed impossible. Down 5-1 to a Louisiana team with one more turn at bat, the all-star team of a six-team Waipio league took Yogi's it-ain't-over-till-it's-over dictum to the extreme, exploding for six runs and holding onto a 7-5 victory at South Williamsport, Pa.
The bats kept connecting the next day as the Waipio team scored every inning against a powerful and previously undefeated Mexican team to win by a 12-3 score, led by Tanner Tokunaga's two home runs. Family members in the stands and relatives and friends at the Mililani Golf Course Restaurant, a popular gathering place, were appropriately delirious.
Among those cheering was Paliku Winchester, a kindergartner at Holy Family Catholic Academy and younger brother of Pikai Winchester, whose double triggered the rally against Louisiana and who contributed two hits in the victory over Mexico.
Paliku has been diagnosed with pre-B cell lymphoma. When he lost all his hair as the Waipio team began its mainland journey to the top in San Bernardino, Calif., the team's coach, Timo Donahue, and several of his brother's teammates shaved their heads in his support.
Iolana Akau suffered a hairline fracture of his left elbow from a hit pitch in Waipio's first game at Williamsport. Wearing a padded bandage, he returned to the lineup for the last two games, hitting a homer and making a spectacular catch in right field in the final game. "I knew I wanted to come back and help my team," said the son of assistant coach Kiha Akau.
The team's performance will go in the record books as one of the finest. Its comeback against Louisiana was described as unprecedented in a title game. Its win over Mexico was the largest margin by a U.S. team over an international opponent in the history of the world championship game. No other team since Taiwan in 1974 had scored in every inning of the world title game.
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