Travis Jones was greeted by Waipio teammates Alex Goya, left, and Kurt Tanabe as he scored on his game-winning home run yesterday against Worcester, Mass., at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Score!Thousands of Little Leaguers spend their practice time dreaming of the day they win a World Series game with a walk-off home run.
Waipios 3-2 win
Travis Jones swats a winningWaipio residents are smiling with pride
homer, and his team advances
By Jerry Campany
At only 12 years old, Travis Jones will have to come up with a bigger dream.
Jones fouled off two pitches before hitting his game-winning homer off the top of the wall in left-center field to give Waipio a 3-2 victory yesterday over Worcester, Mass., in the first game of the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pa.
"It was a relief," Jones said, "a dream come true."
Jones was one of only two starters -- infielder Keith Kobayashi was the other -- who Worcester pitcher Frank Flynn failed to strike out in the game. Jones went up hacking each time, swinging at every pitch he saw except the first. Unfortunately, the only fair balls he was able to hit were weak grounders to the left side of the infield. He didn't change his approach in his last chance, though, falling behind 0-2 before fouling off two pitches. Then he had the 6-foot, 206-pound right-hander timed, and ended the game with his next swing.
"I kinda felt it, knew it was going out," Jones said. "He was throwing fastballs mostly and I just got lucky."
Jones' shot was set up by pitcher Kurt Tanabe's effort throughout the game.
Tanabe struck out 12 batters and gave up only two runs while throwing 111 pitches, 58 of them for strikes. He never did it the easy way, however, walking six batters and leaving six runners on base. He gave up only three hits, but two of them scored runs in the fifth.
Tanabe can be excused for flirting with disaster on the mound, because he more than made up for the anxious moments at the plate.
He was matching Flynn zero for zero and strikeout for strikeout until he grabbed a bat in the fourth inning and led off with a home run over the center-field wall for Waipio's first hit -- and just the third fair ball. Waipio seemed inspired by Tanabe's success, scoring another run in the inning after Cory Yuh poked a single through the middle to score third baseman Isaac Moises.
The rally came the second time through the order. Waipio coach Clyde Tanabe made a simple adjustment to help his players catch up with Flynn's speed. Flynn struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced and finished the game with 12. Five of his punch-outs were on three pitches.
Waipio pitcher Kurt Tanabe threw a pitch yesterday to a Worcester, Mass., player in the fourth inning at the Little League World Series. Hawaii went on to win 3-2.
"I just spread their stance further, told them to just turn their hips without stepping," Coach Tanabe said. "The kid was throwing so hard, we just had to touch it for it to go out."
A two-run lead with two innings left was too good to be true for Hawaii, as Tanabe gave the eighth and ninth hitters free passes after getting a strikeout in the fifth. Tanabe nearly worked out of that jam, striking out Andy Fallon for the second out, but Gordie Lockbaum -- who got Worcester into the Series with a solo homer in the regional final -- doubled over Tony Fernandez's head in right to plate a run, and Landers followed with an infield single to bring home another and tie the game at 2-2.
Clyde Tanabe then paid his son a visit on the mound, wondering if his arm might have finally had enough.
"That's Kurt," Clyde Tanabe said. "He has actually been getting better on his pitch count since the tournament started. I was not worried. I just wanted to know if his arm was all right, and he said, 'I still can go, I can finish this.' So I just said, 'Finish the job.'"
Kurt Tanabe finished the job, getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth and setting Worcester down in order on only seven pitches in the sixth.
It was Waipio's second straight win in the final inning. The local team made it to the World Series by rallying for four runs in the sixth against Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, in the regional final. The coach is ready for even more nail-biters.
"My heart is fine," Clyde Tanabe said. "Just being here is enough. The pressure is off now. We are just playing baseball."
Waipio will get its next chance tomorrow at 9 a.m., Hawaii time, against Westside Little League of Fort Worth, Texas, on ESPN. Fort Worth beat Webb City, Mo., 1-0 after Waipio's game, making tomorrow's game a battle of the only unbeatens in Waipio's pool. Waipio has to win its pool to advance.
Waipio finishes the round-robin round Monday at 2 p.m. against Webb City, Mo., also on ESPN. Tanabe is not eligible to pitch until that game, meaning Yuh will probably start tomorrow with Jones ready to come in if he gets in trouble.
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FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Aunty Ella Makio, the "yee-haw lady" at Costco Waipio, was tickled yesterday over how well the Waipio Little League team was doing. "It's great for the community," she said.
The Waipio Little League team's appearance on national television in the Little League World Series may be the biggest thing to happen in this small community since Costco and Tony Honda opened on Ka Uka Boulevard recently.
Waipio residents are smiling
with pride at their teams success
By Craig Gima
"I think they are a great Little League team, and they put Waipio on the map," said Aunty Ella Makio, the "yee-haw lady" at Costco Waipio as she put cream cheese on Costco bagel samples.
"They work as a team. It's great for the community. The Waipio Little Leaguers makes you want to go yeeeee-haaaw."
"They're a bunch of little kids who did big things," said resident Henry Torres. "Waipio is not a well-known town like Manoa or Mililani." So the team's success means the community will be known as more than a subdivision made by Gentry, he added.
"They think we live in Waipahu," said Lori Tom, a resident since 1984. She said Waipio is the kind of place where everyone is friendly and neighbors get together for block parties.
"I think it (the team's success) is great. My neighbor works at Kanoelani Elementary School, where the kids go to school."
In many of the neat, single-family homes and townhouses along the tree-lined streets of Waipio, the talk is of baseball, sixth-inning heroics and how neighborhood kids are on national television and making an entire state proud.
"I'm just pulling for them to take it all the way. Our whole neighborhood is," said Susan Duelks, whose neighbors are on the team. "We see them every afternoon trudging down the street to practice, and now it's paying off."
"I get goose bumps," said Roxanne Pollick, who has a co-worker who is related to the team manager.
At the Waipio Zippy's, Sue Yoshimoto, who is visiting from Kauai, said she was very impressed with the poise shown by the youngsters.
"They didn't show any signs of pressure," she said.
"They really played hard and they deserved to win," said Conner Rand, 9, who lives in Waikele.
In Williamsport, Pa., the 20 parents traveling with the 14 players "are floating around here. They're not touching ground," said manager Clyde Tanabe.
The team planned to spend this morning in study hall, have a practice after lunch, perhaps some swimming, and then the team and the parents will eat Zippy's chili, which someone mailed to them. One of the parents also brought up a rice cooker.
A lot of the kids haven't eaten rice in a while, Tanabe added.
The experience has been unreal, he said. After the game, he and some of the players were whisked off to a news conference.
"They put a cable with a microphone in front of me, so that's pretty neat," Tanabe said.
"It's like you made it to the big time or whatever it is."
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