Game 32
West 1
2 vs. Mexico 3

Sunday, August 24, 2008
3:30PM ET


Hawaii Rides Wave of Offense to World Series Title
Japan takes third place after wild 4-3 win against Louisiana

By Jesse Caputo
Special Correspondent

By noon on Sunday, the terrace hills above Howard J. Lamade Stadium were colored in bright, family-sized blankets and filled with lawn chairs.

When the first pitch was thrown in the Little League World Series Championship Game, 28,500 fans had packed the hillside and grandstands.

Those same fans roared with euphoria at game’s end and reveled in the accomplishment of the 12 Little Leaguers from Waipahu, Hawaii, who raced around the outfield, their Little League championship banner in one hand and the Hawaiian flag in the other.

Waipio Little League’s offense hit Matamoros Little League, a team deep with pitching, all over the park in its 12-3 win, and earned Hawaii its second Little League World Series title in four years.

Things started off quickly for Hawaii in the first when leadoff hitter Christian Donahue slapped a single. Donahue moved to second on a wild pitch. One out later, hitting sensation Pikai Winchester stroked a single to left center, scoring Donahue to make it 1-0.

With a runner on base in the second, Tanner Tokunaga took the first pitch he saw from right-hander Sergio Rodriguez, a hanging breaking ball, and gave it a ride. The ball landed behind the bust of Lamade himself in dead center and expanded Hawaii’s lead to 3-0.

“(Sergio) told me he was relaxed before the game,” Mexico manager Gustavo Gomez said through an interpreter. “You have to understand this is one of the biggest games in this kid’s life, so I can understand if he was a little nervous.”

In the third, Rodriguez couldn’t keep the Hawaiians in check, either. They tacked on their fourth run, thanks to two singles and help from Rodriguez. With runners on second and third, he threw a wild pitch to bring in the run.

Gomez attributed Rodriguez’s wildness to his difficulty communicating with catcher Fernando Villegas. Rodriguez threw several pitches in the dirt and over Villegas’ head and hitters were uncomfortable facing him. He struck out seven in 2 2/3 innings.

Mexico, which got a solo homer from Jesus Sauceda in the second, attempted a comeback of its own in the bottom of the third.

The rally started when Caleb Duhay allowed a single and gave up a walk to begin the inning, but it looked as if he had the situation diffused after he got Emmanuel Rodriguez to hit a fly ball to right for the second out.

With runners on second and third, Eduardo Rodriguez hit a bloop single over first, which scored two and cut Hawaii’s leads to 4-3. Duhay would not allow Mexico to get any closer. He struck out Sauceda to end the threat.

“Today I felt really confident,” Duhay said. “I had all my pitches.”

On the biggest stage in his young career, Duhay was brilliant. He held a Mexico team that had batted .393 in its first five games to six hits and three runs. He struck out seven in 5 1/3 innings of work.

After Duhay ended the Mexico rally, Hawaii brought its momentum to bat in the fourth.

Iolana Akau came up to the plate with two outs against Sauceda, who relieved Sergio Rodriguez. Akau hit a Sauceda fastball over the left-center field wall. He danced down the line as he sent Mexico’s hopes of coming back with it.

“Right off the bat I knew it was gone,” Akau said.

His home run rattled Sauceda. He proceeded to walk three of the next four batters and hit the other.

Unlike in past World Series outings, Sauceda did not feature his typical nasty fastball and great control. He struggled through his one inning.

Faced with the bases loaded and two outs, right-hander Klaus Muller came on in relief. Muller gave up an infield single to make it 7-3 before he struck out Donahue.

By now, it was evident Mexico was not the happy, confident team that had gone through World Series pool play and the playoffs unbeaten. Sauceda and his teammates’ heads were down and their spirits even lower.

“All along I’ve been saying that it’s just a matter of time before our bats woke up,” Hawaii manager Timo Donahue said. “It seems like once we got here each game one bat would wake up and eventually they all did.”

Waipahu tacked on four runs in the fifth and one in the sixth against Muller and Eduardo Rodriguez. Those runs pushed the score to 12-3 and secured the championship for Hawaii, the fourth straight for the United States.

The 12 runs for Hawaii were the most scored by one team in a World Series title game since Toms River, N.J., scored 12 to beat Japan in 1998.

“Did I expect the differential in scoring today?” Donahue said. “Not at all.”


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