Hawaii defeats Mexico, wins Little League title

August 24, 2008 3:55:08 PM PDT
Hawaii's mini-mashers got a little help from Mexico's miscues to win a fourth straight Little League World Series title for the United States.Tanner Tokunaga smacked two homers and Iolana Akau added a solo blast as the boys from Waipahu, Hawaii, defeated Matamoros, Mexico, 12-3, Sunday to take the biggest prize in youth sports.

Hawaii was also helped by three Mexico errors. Two Hawaii runs scored on passed balls, and another came in on a bases-loaded walk.

But Mexico's lineup is loaded with dangerous hitters, so the lead wasn't safe until reliever Christian Donahue got Fernando Villegas to ground out to shortstop.

Then the celebration started.

"USA! USA!" chanted the U.S.-partisan crowd on a warm, sunny afternoon as the players tossed their gloves into the air, then posed near the mound with the world championship banner.

A team from Ewa Beach, Hawaii, started the U.S. winning streak in 2005, with Little Leaguers from Georgia taking the prize the previous two years.

Eduardo Rodriguez's two-run single off Hawaii starter Caleb Duhay in the third closed a four-run gap to 5-3 for Mexico in the third before Hawaii broke out for seven runs over the next two innings.

Duhay struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings for the win before departing with an out left in the sixth.

All three Hawaii runs in the fourth scored with two outs. Akau started the scoring with his homer to center. The next batter, Khade Paris, reached on hit by pitch and scored on a bases-loaded walk.

Then Keelen Obedoza hit a soft liner toward first that fielder Eleazar Rojas thought he caught on the fly. But the ball touched the ground just before it hit his glove, allowing Duhay to scamper home from third for a 7-3 lead.

Tokunaga extended it to 8-3 after leading off the fifth with his second homer of the day. The blast cleared the outstretched glove of center fielder Sergio Rodriguez, who slammed the top of the padded wall with both hands in frustration.

Tokunaga also had a two-run homer to center in the second that gave Hawaii a 3-0 lead.

The 12-year-old second baseman has become Hawaii's Mr. Clutch after his two-run double Saturday in the sixth against Lake Charles, La., capped a comeback from a 5-1 deficit to give Hawaii a 7-5 win that sent them to Sunday's title game.

An exhausted Hawaii coaching staff lay sprawled on their back in the middle of the field after the game while their players took the traditional victory lap around Lamade Stadium.

Mexico entered the final with 10 homers and 38 RBIs, but the miscues weighed the team down. Mexico pitchers had nine walks and three wild pitches and hit three batters. The team also had three passed balls.

In the third-place game, Tsuyoki Setoguchi scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the fifth inning to lead Tokyo to a 4-3 victory over Lake Charles. Kennon Fontenot had a two-run single for Louisiana.