The Central East Maui baseball team’s dream of winning the Little League World Series came to an end today as River Ridge, La., won 9-5 at Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa.
The Southwest Region squad knocked off the West representative to win the national championship and will now face Curacao tomorrow for the title. Maui will play Japan in the consolation game that begins at 4 a.m. and will be shown locally on KITV. The Wailuku kids are the first from their island to advance to the series. It was their only loss over nine days.
Curacao held on to defeat Japan 5-4 in the International finale. Japan was down three entering its last at-bat, and scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut it to one, but that was as close as they would get in the dramatic matchup. That game cleared the stage for the American affair and it was equally exciting between evenly matched teams.
Maui beat the Louisiana squad 5-2 in the opening game of the Little League World Series for both teams eight days ago. Jaren Pascual pitched a complete-game victory in that one, but this time around, manager Brad Lung went with eventual losing pitcher Logan Kuloloia. The River Ridge squad, coming off a no-hit victory over South Riding, Va., of the Southeast Region, countered with off-speed specialist William Andrade. Louisiana manager Scott Frazier noticed the first time his team played Maui, the local boys pounded fastballs but had problems with slow curves.
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It was a good call as Andrade outdueled Kuloloia by going 4 2/3 innings, giving up no runs on three hits. He struck out three and walked three and limited the Maui lineup from the beginning. Both youngsters pitched well in the early going due in part to good fielding behind them, as neither team managed to score in the first four innings. Maui appeared to break out on top in the first as Bransyn Hong was called safe at the plate on a single to right-center by Kaleb Mathias. But upon further review, catcher Egan Prather tagged him on the foot just before he hit the plate and the run was taken off the board. Louisiana second baseman Derek DeLatte turned a perfect throw to the plate off the relay.
Louisiana got things going in the top of the fourth with a leadoff double by Marshall Louque, who was the losing pitcher the first time the two teams met. But as he did in the opening three innings, Kuloloia found a way to keep the go-ahead run from coming in by retiring the next three batters he faced to end the threat.
Back came Louisiana in the top of the fifth as pinch hitter Jeffrey Curtis led off the inning with a double to center. Fellow pinch hitter Ryder Planchard followed with a single to right, scoring Prather, who had come in as a pinch runner. An error on a fielder’s choice and a hit batter loaded the bases for Louisiana’s Louque, who lined a two-RBI double off the wall in left to make it 3-0. That was it for Kuloloia, as Isaac Imamura came in. He uncorked a pair of wild pitches, scoring Reece Roussel and Louque to make it 5-0.
Louisiana loaded the bases with one out in the sixth for Roussel, who set the series record with 15 hits thanks to a two-RBI single to center to make it 7-0. In 20 at-bats, Roussel has 15 hits. Louque came in to score two more on a triple to left to make it 9-0.
Maui got its first three runners on in the sixth off reliever DeLatte with Duke Aloy stepping in. He lifted a single to left to make it 9-1. New reliever Connor Perrot got the first batter he faced looking at a called third strike, bringing up Mathias, who walked to score Maui’s second run. Imamura then walked as well to make it 9-3.
A hot shot by Hong got into left field to score two more as Pascual walked to load the bases to bring the tying run to the plate. In came reliever Planchard with Nakea Kahalehau stepping in with one out and the score 9-5. He lined into a double play to the shortstop to end the game.