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Aiea knocks out Waipio, faces Maui


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POSTED: Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Aiea all-stars plan to take NGU as far as they can.

“;Never give up,”; coach George Yara said after yesterday's 8-5 comeback win over three-time defending champion Waipio in the state Little League baseball tournament at the Aiea Recreation Center Annex. “;When we yell NGU, the kids all know what we mean and what we expect.”;

Aiea bounced back from Friday's 10-2 loss to Central Maui to advance to the tournament's final day today. Central Maui can clinch the title and a trip to the West Regional in San Bernardino, Calif., with a victory over Aiea at 11 a.m., but if Aiea wins, another game will be played for the title at 2 p.m.

“;We have a pretty good chance, I'd say so,”; said Hunter Yara, the coach's son, who pitched a complete-game seven-hitter and gave Aiea a 3-0 lead with a three-run homer to left in the first. “;We're all brothers here. We believe in all of our pitchers and all of our players and we'll make sure we take out (Central Maui).”;

Aiea got a big lift from the bat of Travis Tanaka, who followed Yara's homer with one of his own in the first. After Waipio rallied to go ahead 5-4, Tanaka also hit a two-run blast in the fifth to put Aiea up for good, 6-5.

“;I was thinking about nothing else but hitting the ball,”; Tanaka said. “;I wasn't trying to hit homers. Luckily, they just went over the fence.”;

Waipio's reign as Little League World Series champion came to an end.

“;It's disappointing,”; said Waipio catcher Ryan Stack, who launched a two-run homer to left-center in the second inning. “;All of the guys worked really hard for this. It just didn't go our way.

“;Three guys (Ty DeSa, Shiloh Baniaga and Tyler Yamaguchi) will come back and try again next year. The rest of us will go our own ways and hope our paths cross again.”;

In the top of the fifth, Waipio took its only lead of the game, 5-4, thanks to an Aiea error, Jason Komoda's double and consecutive sacrifice flies by DeSa and Kaleb Vutnoski.

“;I knew they could do it,”; Waipio coach Ross Yamaguchi said about the way his kids battled back to go ahead. “;The ball bounced funny for us in the last inning (two errors leading to the final two Aiea runs). That's the way it goes in baseball sometimes.

“;I'm sorry for the kids. They gave us a good six weeks of hard work. They come out here and listen to us and do everything we tell them. It's a great bunch of kids. They don't have an attitude. They just come out and have fun and work hard.”;

Aiea will meet an undefeated Central Maui team that's well rested, having played just two games in the first four days of the tournament. The Valley Isle squad had the day off yesterday. Aiea, on the other hand, has won two of its three games.

“;We're gonna play to win,”; George Yara said. “;For us, it's not win at all costs. If we come away with a win, we'll be humble about it. We just ask the kids to play with heart and integrity.”;