SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa., —Hawaii's offensive punch followed Japan's stirring win in extra innings to create some high drama at the Little League World Series.
Now, the two teams will meet today to decide who flies home with a World Series title.
Ryo Motegi's RBI grounder through the infield with two outs gave Tokyo, Japan, a 3-2 win over Kaoshiung, Taiwan, to claim the international title Saturday, before Noah Shackles' two-run homer to center capped a four-run first for the boys from Waipahu, Hawaii, in a 10-0 win over Pearland, Texas, in the U.S. championship.
Shackles finished 2 for 2 with three runs, and lefty Ezra Heleski allowed just two hits for the local Waipio Little League from Waipahu trying to win its second tournament crown in three years. The game ended with one out in the fifth because of Little League's 10-run rule.
"USA! USA!," chanted the Hawaii fans afterward. Many held mini-state flags and tea leaves they have been waving in the stands all week for good luck.
After avoiding elimination four straight days, Hawaii has one more big game to go. Manager Brian Yoshii isn't making any predictions.
"But I tell you these kids will leave everything on the field and play their hearts out to make their community proud, and the state proud and the West proud," he said before Shackles whispered his manager to say something else.
"And the United States," Yoshii said with a smile before replying to his 13-year-old third baseman. "Thank you for covering for me."
It was the 5-foot-10 Shackles and the 5-foot-1 Heleski — one of the shortest players on Hawaii — who played key roles in shutting down a powerful Pearland squad that hit a tournament-leading eight homers entering Saturday.
Heleski kept them off-balance in striking out six and chipping in with two RBIs.
"I couldn't begin to tell you how proud of these kids I am. It has nothing to do with what happened results-wise," Texas manager Mike Orlando said. "We tried very hard to get the kids fired up after we got behind. I tried to tell them there were 1,000 Little League teams that (would) trade places with you in a heartbeat."