Every year, there are signs that the summer is coming to an end. Back to school commercials hit the airwaves, leaves start to change into their fall hues and 16 teams vie for the Little League World Series crown.
Similar to the College World Series that takes place in Omaha, Nebraska each year, every August in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, eight teams from the United States and eight from around the globe battle it out for Little League supremacy.
Representing the West region is a team that plays in the Central East Maui Little League from Wailuku, Hawaii. They are attempting to become the first region to win back-to-back Little League World Series championships since Tokyo, Japan accomplished that feat in 2012 and 2013.
Furthermore, last year’s winners also hailed from Hawaii. The team from Honolulu outlasted Seoul, South Korea 3-0 in the 2018 final.
On Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EDT on ABC, Hawaii will take the field against Louisiana in the United States championship for the rights to take on the winner of the International championship, Japan vs. Curacao.
The U.S. championship is a rematch from the first round, the tournament is a double-elimination format, Hawaii won the first matchup 5-2. Dating back to last year’s Little League World Series, Hawaiian teams have won eight straight games.
Additionally, Hawaiian teams have won the last four U.S. championships games they’ve played in, ultimately winning it all in 2005, 2008 and 2018 while losing to Japan in 2010.
In the U.S. semifinal game on Wednesday, Hawaii went toe-to-toe vs a team from South Riding, Virginia who came into the game throwing consecutive no-hitters in their opening two contests. It was a showdown that did not disappoint.
Hawaii came out of the gates hot, scoring five runs to start the game and was leading 8-2 heading into the bottom of the third inning, but Virginia would not go down easily. In the home half of the third, Virginia scored six runs of their own to tie the game and suddenly it was anyone’s game.
The little sluggers from the island of Maui would go onto score four runs in the next two innings and ultimately win, 12-9.
In the post-game press conference, Hawaii Manager Brad Lung said he was proud of the teams performance and credited the kids for the amount of time they put into hitting practice. Although he joked they may need to do a little more field work.
“I think we need to work on our defense though after tonight,” Lung said with a chuckle, referencing the four errors his team had in the game. “A little frustrated with the defense but it is what it is. The boys played with heart. They hung in there, it’s very hard to have a lead like that and then give it away and stay on that field and battle back. So we are extremely proud of them.”
According to the ESPN broadcast during the game against Virginia, 12 year-old Shiloh Gilliland is the lone player on the team that speaks Native Hawaiian. In the same post-game press conference, he said while there may be some pressure, he likes his team’s chances.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us but we’re all brothers,” Gilliland said. “We help each other out, we relieve the pressure off everybody, we’re going to do good.”
The losers of the U.S. and International championship games will meet in the consolation game Sunday at 10:00 a.m. EDT on ESPN. The overall championship game for the Little League world crown will be played the same day at 3:00 p.m. EDT on ABC.
Kolby KickingWoman is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is Blackfeet/Gros Ventre from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org