Hawaii stuns defending champs for Little League title
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- With the game tied in extra innings, a tiring reliever on the mound and the Little League World Series championship on the line, Michael Memea had a simple plan: make contact.
West Oahu of Ewa Beach, Hawaii had already completed a stunning comeback Sunday over the defending champions from Willemstad, Curacao, scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game.
Now here was Memea at the plate in the bottom of the seventh with nobody on and nobody out.
No matter: Memea lined a pitch over the center-field wall to give Hawaii a 7-6 win, the first game-ending home run in a Little League championship game.
"I knew it was gone," Memea said afterward, a necklace made of candy pieces strewn around his neck.
After the homer, Memea rounded third with his right hand held high and barreled toward jubilant teammates waiting for him at home plate. Later, he and his teammates took the traditional victory jog around the Lamade Stadium warning track, drawing cheers from fans.
Manager Layton Aliviado planned to give his team some time to unwind before the flight back to Hawaii on Monday. West Oahu is the first team from Hawaii to win a Little League World Series title.
"Today, I'm real happy. Our dream came true," he said with the winner's plaque sitting on his lap. "You guys can jump in the pool if you'd like."
Before their sixth-inning rally -- sending the title game to extra innings for just the second time -- Aliviado said he told his team: "If you guys want it, let's go get it."
With runners on second and third and nobody out, Vonn Fe'ao scored from third on a bunt base hit by Ty Tirpak. Zachary Rosete then hit an RBI single to left close the gap to 6-5.
Three batters and one out later, Alaka'i Aglipay hit a bouncer to second that looked like it would be an easy double play, but he beat out the throw to first, allowing Rosete to score the tying run.
"We didn't expect them to come back like that in the sixth," Curacao manager Vernon Isabella said through an interpreter.
Hawaii's runs in the sixth and seventh innings came off reliever Christopher Garia, who was entering his fourth inning of work when Memea came to bat in the seventh.
"I knew he was tired but I asked him to go the extra mile," Isabella said. "I didn't notice any flaws in his mechanics and the extra time in between innings did not hurt us."
Memea and his teammates were later asked if they had to return to school this week.
"Yeah," they said in unison.
Were they looking forward to it? "No," they groaned.
The Curacao team from the Pabao Little League was trying to become the first repeat winners in South Williamsport since Long Beach, Calif., won back-to-back titles in 1992-93.
Sorick Liberia had broken open a 3-3 game in the fifth with a two-run homer that soared beyond a short hill past the left-field wall. Darren Seferina added a solo shot to give Curacao its three-run lead.
The homers drew loud cheers from the small contingent of Curacao fans holding the country's blue and yellow flag and wearing hats of the same color.
Braves slugger Andruw Jones, who is from Willemstad, was watching the game on television from Milwaukee after hitting his major league-leading 41st and 42nd home runs during Atlanta's 5-2 win over the Brewers. Most of Curacao's players at the Little League World Series call him their favorite player.
"It's great to see," Jones said in between yelling at the TV and playfully taunting his teammates. "There's a lot of talent down there."
Down a run with two outs in the third, Curacao took a 3-1 lead thanks in part to a confusing play that started with an RBI single to right by Jurickson Profar.
The ball got by outfielder Rosete for an error and on the throw in, Rayshelon Carolina got caught in a rundown but scored after pitcher Quentin Guevara appeared to miss the tag at home.
Profar moved to third amid the confusion, then was singled home by Liberia.
West Oahu had a tournament-leading 10 home runs coming into the game.
Also on Sunday, Ryan Gura lined an RBI single with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a tie and lift Rancho Buena Vista of Vista, Calif. over Chiba City, Japan, 5-4 in the consolation game.
Johnny Dee started the winning rally with a one-out walk. Daniel Gibney blooped a single into left field just out of the reach of Yusuke Taira before Gura hit the game winner.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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