Hawaii returns to the U.S. Championship Game for the first time
since 2005 with a 9-4 win over Mill Creek, Washington in first of
two U.S. Semifinals.
By Allie Weinberger
For the first time since 2005, Hawaii
finds itself back in the baseball spotlight.
Four home runs, including two from slugger Pikai Winchester, blasted
Waipahu, Hawaii to a 9-4 win over Mill Creek, Washington Wednesday
night at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, earning them a first-class ticket
into Saturday’s U.S. Championship faceoff at the 2008 Little League
Baseball World Series.
Despite both teams coming out to a quick start – they combined for
six runs in the first inning alone – the bats of the West outlasted
an 11-strikeout game for the Northwest, vaulting them into a bout
for the top spot in the U.S.
“It’s sad that one of us had to lose,” said Hawaii skipper Timo
Donahue. “Those guys are good guys over there.”
It was two costly errors, both followed by a long ball, that took
four runs from the Washington side in the bottom of the opening
frame. The first two-run homer came off the bat of Tanner Tokunaga,
who took Derrick Mahlum’s 0-1 offering over the hedge in left
center, and the second came from pinch hitter Iolana Akau, who sent
the ball to dead centerfield.
“When I got to bat, I was kind of nervous,” said Akau, who was
playing in his first game since getting hit by a pitch in Hawaii’s
opening game on Friday. “I just tried to get a base hit and it just
The quartet of runs offset the pair knocked in by Washington in the
top of the first, plated by Alex Jondal’s two-run double down the
left field line.
Washington’s KJ Neaville cut the deficit to 4-3 with a towering shot
over the centerfield hedge in the second, but the Mill Creek Little
Leaguers weren’t able to capitalize on back-to-back walks issued by
Hawaii starter Caleb Duhay.
The score remained 4-3 heading into the home half of the third, when
Winchester gave Hawaii a two-run lead on the first pitch with his
first of two home runs on the night. The shot was followed by
back-to-back-to-back hits up the middle – the second two coming as
doubles – knocking in two more for a 7-3 score at the end of three.
A wild pitch from Tokunaga with the bases loaded in the top of the
fourth plated Northwest baserunner Casey Dawes before the hurler got
out of the jam, striking out Jondal.
Up, 7-4, heading into the bottom of the fourth, the Waipoi Little
League got their third two-run shot and fourth home run of the game,
again off the bat of Winchester. The hit, which barely stayed fair
down the left field line, made the score 9-4 in favor of the home
“He’s a great hitter,” Donahue said of Winchester. “I think he’s
seeing the ball really well right now.”
“They’re just too good a team to [give up three unearned runs in the
first],” said Washington manager Scott Mahlum. “I said they were the
best team fundamentally – they were – and I think I also said
Winchester was the best hitter here, and darn if he didn’t prove
“I think we had as many hits as they had,” added Mahlum.
“Unfortunately, they hit a few more out of the park.”
And while Washington got the Hawaii boys to go 1-2-3 to close out
the fifth, it was too little too late, leaving them in need of five
runs force the Waipoi Little Leaguers to bat again.
“They aren’t the biggest, they aren’t the strongest, they don’t
throw the hardest, but they are fundamentally as solid as it gets,”
said Mahlum. “Very impressive.”
The West sent Christian Donahue to the hill in the top of the sixth,
with just three outs standing between them and Saturday’s U.S.
Championship. The hurler delivered, striking out the side despite
issuing a pair of walks.
Three Hawaii pitchers combined for 11 strikeouts in the nightcap,
issuing six total walks while allowing seven Northwest hits. The
West piled on eight hits of their own in five offensive frames, also
striking out 11 times.
The Waipoi Little Leaguers scored in three of their five innings at
the plate, belting home runs in each of the scoring frames. But the
Mill Creek Little Leaguers aren’t leaving Williamsport with any bad
“Just be proud,” Mahlum told his boys after the game. “They’ve come
a long way, they’re the first Mill Creek team to ever get [to the
With the win, Hawaii moves on to face the winner of Thursday’s
semi-final matchup between the Southwest champs from Lake Charles,
Louisiana and the Southeast champs from Tampa, Florida for a chance
to play in the Little League Baseball World Series Championship
“The next time we take the field, there’s only going to be two U.S.
teams left,” said Donahue, “and that in itself is saying a lot.”
© 2008, Little League Baseball
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