BANGOR — Almost immediately after completing a 10-0, five-inning victory over Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy, in Friday’s Senior League World Series semifinal at Mansfield Stadium, the Hilo, Hawaii, all-stars turned their attention to the immediate future.
First they won the coin flip with the Rose Capital East Little League of Tyler, Texas, to be the home team for Saturday’s 2 p.m. world championship game, then they began focusing on that next opponent, which advanced earlier in the day with a 10-5 victory over defending SLWS champion San Nicolas, Aruba.
“We did what we have to do, now we’ll go back and look at our scouting reports on Texas,” said Hawaii manager Kaha Wong. “They’re an awesome team. They can hit, they can pitch. They kind of blew Latin America off the field, so you’ve got to look at that and take them real serious (Saturday).”
The Hawaii-Texas matchup — scheduled to be televised by ESPNU — will mark just the second time two teams undefeated in SLWS play have met for the championship since the tournament moved to Bangor in 2002. Falcon, Venezuela, edged Pearl City, Hawaii, 4-2 in a 2006 battle of unbeatens.
And for several Hilo players, the game offers a second chance for a world title after they fell to Curacao in the 2008 Junior League World Series final.
“I’m very happy we’re playing (Saturday),” said shortstop Kean Wong, son of the Hawaii manager. “It’s going to be on TV, I’m excited, and in ‘08 we lost so we’d like to win and make Hawaii proud.”
After a slow start influenced by a 22-minute rain/thunder delay after the top of the first inning, the Hawaii offense erupted for 10 hits in its last three at-bats.
And three Hawaii pitchers, starter Kodi Medeiros and relievers Kaimana Moike and Quintin Torres-Costa, limited Italy to two hits while combining for five strikeouts and no walks.
“It went how we wanted it,” said Kaha Wong. “We kept the pitchers under the pitch count, kept our pitching available for (Saturday), got our hits and got the game done in five innings.”
After taking a 1-0 lead in the second inning, the U.S. West champions broke the game open with three runs in the third and five runs in the fourth before scoring their game-ending run with one out in the fifth on an RBI single by Davey Camacho.
“We had to make adjustments against their pitchers,” said Hawaii third baseman Korin Medeiros, who tripled home two runs in the third inning and added a two-run single in the fourth.
Italy, the first Europe-Middle East-Africa team to qualify for the SLWS semifinals in Bangor, was coming off two must-win victories Thursday just to qualify for the semifinals, including a 9-8 decision over Talbot County, Md., in a game that ended at 11:06 p.m.
So when starting pitcher Simone Bazzarini had to leave the game with a leg injury in the fourth inning, the bullpen was shorthanded and Hawaii capitalized.
Kolten Yamaguchi used his speed to give Hawaii its early 1-0 lead, drawing a walk and then stealing both second and third, with the steal of third base resulting in an errant throw that enabled him to score.
Torres-Costa led off the Hawaii third with a single to left and Chayce Kaaua was hit by a pitch with one out before Korin Medeiros brought them both home with a triple to deep left.
Medeiros scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-0.
Hawaii then sent 10 batters to the plate in the fourth against Italian reliever Davide Bertoldi, with two walks followed by five consecutive one-out hits, including an RBI single by Wong, a two-run double by Kaaua and a two-run single by Korin Medeiros that stretched the lead to 9-0.
“We didn’t hit as good starting out, but we settled down and started hitting the ball well and making the defensive plays,” said Kean Wong, who finished with three singles.
Marco Mari led off the game with a bunt single and Bertoldi led off the fourth with a single to center for Italy’s only hits.
EMEA (3-2) 000 00 — 0 2 1
U.S. West (5-0) 013 51 — 10 11 1
Bazzarini, Bertoldi (4) and Deotto; Medeiros, Moike (3), Torres-Costa and Matson