WILLIAMSPORT, PA—The Hawaii team, known for its powerful lineup of short, fat Skill 5 hitters, defeated the Mexico team 12-3 in the championship game of the Little League World Series, a four-round, single-player tournament held from 2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Sunday. A majority of the games were played in Speed Mode.
Hawaii's offensive outburst was led by such stars as Glen, who had three hits and four RBI on the afternoon, as well as right-handed cleanup hitter Adam, who was 2-for-3 with a double and home run. Leadoff man Thomas chipped in with a home run of his own, which prompted two identical cheerleaders in the crowd to wave their pompoms in front of a giant neon "HOMERUN" sign.
"I say it every year—the short, fat players have the most power," said commentator Orel Hershiser after the game. "When you've got guys like Byron, guys like Steven even though he's just a Skill 2, guys like the 'Big A's'—Aaron, Adam, and Alan—you're going to score a lot of runs. It would take a stellar pitching performance to shut this team down, and unfortunately for Mexico, Ramon did not have his best stuff today."
Hawaii got off to a quick start, scoring six runs in the first and taking full advantage of Mexico's sloppy defense. Third baseman Chico (Skill 1) had a particularly rough day in the field, committing six errors and several mental miscues. In the fourth inning, Chico slid head-first eight times in an attempt to catch a foul pop-up before letting it fall to the ground, and later ran directly past a ground ball in the hole while on his way to inexplicably cover second base. On three occasions, he fielded a routine grounder and accidentally threw it to home plate instead of first base. Chico later claimed that he "didn't know how" to throw to first.
Mexico's only runs came on a lucky break in the fourth inning when, with two on and an 0-2 count, Juan hit a ball into the gap that became lodged in a portion of the fence that prevented Hawaii's right fielder from retrieving it. As a result, the outfielder ran in place into the fence for over 20 seconds while Juan rounded the bases.
Aside from that one lapse, Hawaii's starter Jerry was dominant, holding Mexico sluggers Paco and Benito to just one hit apiece.
"Jerry had all his pitches working today: the fastball, the slowball, the ball that starts fast and then slows down right before it reaches the plate, and the breaking pitch that starts down the middle and then slowly curves 15 feet outside as the batter begins his swing," Hershiser said. "His pitch sequences were set up beautifully. He did a great job of throwing pitches inside to make the batter stand in the far corner of the batter's box, and then coming back with a fastball that painted the outside corner. Worked every time."
Mexico's pitcher, Ramon (Skill 2), did not fare quite as well. After giving up a double to Alan and a groundball triple to Glen to start the third, he quickly tired, demonstrating his fatigue by removing his cap and allowing two geometric lines of perspiration to emanate from his head. He then threw his next fastball approximately 20 mph slower than the last one.
Surprisingly, however, not a single walk was issued by either team, and only three balls were thrown during the entire game.
Despite the resounding victory, Hawaii was not without its own blunders. Their defense failed to hit the cutoff man once all game, and whenever first-baseman Aaron fielded a ground ball, instead of stepping on first base to record the out, he would throw it to the empty bag, causing the ball to skip into right field. Hawaii could have potentially won the game by the 10-run mercy rule had they not consistently run themselves out of innings. The most flagrant baserunning gaffe came in the fourth, when Adam forgot how to go back on the basepaths.
After Mexico's loss, somber music played as three of Mexico's players were consoled by their coach, a white man in his mid-40s.
"YOU TRIED HARD, BUT LOST," the coach told his crestfallen team in a crude but playful typeface. "BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME."
Many Mexico fans are protesting Hawaii's win, claiming that the U.S. team used controversial—and some say illegal—tactics to win the game, including removing their best hitter Aaron for a pinch-runner after he got on base and then reinserting him into the lineup as a pinch-hitter two outs later, and having what appeared to be six outfielders, all of whom moved simultaneously at identical angles and speeds. In addition, during a key play in the second inning, a Hawaii outfielder tricked Mexico baserunner Pancho into trying to stretch a single into a double by simply not picking up the ball.
Both teams endured a long, difficult path to get to the championship game. Mexico had to defeat Chinese Taipei and Korea in the first two rounds, while in the semifinals, Hawaii overcame a late-game deficit to beat fan favorite Texas with a walk-off home run, made especially memorable as it traveled exactly along the foul line without ever curving.
The 2008 Little League Baseball Championship Series went relatively smoothly this year, suffering only a few minor mishaps. The final game was delayed 18 minutes in the third inning for reasons the official scorer said pertained to obtaining "Hot Pockets and a Sprite." Earlier that afternoon, the perennial powerhouse New York team, led by Ward and Saul, was forced to forfeit their semifinal match when their coach forgot the 22-digit alphanumeric code needed to begin the game.
However, in an improvement over previous years, only one quarterfinals game had to be suspended and replayed after all the players simultaneously froze.
Sources confirmed that several Bases Loaded scouts were in attendance, and that Utah is looking to sign Hawaii pitcher Jerry and place him in their rotation alongside Quinta, Lep, and Stava.