Hawaii off to strong start at Little League World Series | News, Sports, Jobs

Honolulu’s Esaiah Wong (20) is greeted by his teammate along the third baseline as he drives home on his way home from Lucas Mininni of Massapequa, NY during the fifth inning of a baseball game at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, PA ., Friday, August 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar)

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT. father (AP) — A packed Lamade Stadium, a national television audience, and an opposing pitcher throwing a no-hitter in a regional final.

That would worry many teams of 10-12 year olds, but not Hawaii.

Kekoa Payanal went over the fence on the left for the third pitch and Hawaii was back on track.

Hawaii won its first two games of the Little League World Series by an aggregate score of 23-1. That’s 11-1 over Northwest and 12-0 over Metro — specifically Long Island’s Massapequa Coast — on Friday. The Honolulu club has yet to play a full game after pacifying each of their opponents after the fifth inning.

On Friday, Kekoa hit two of his team’s four home runs.

“I have this routine” Kekoa said. “Basically you take a deep breath and stare at your racquet to focus. That’s what works for me.”

It’s not just hitting either. Hawaii has also dominated on defense, conceding just one goal and shooting clean in the field.

It’s more the same for a Hawaii team that has been one of the best teams in America’s little league for the past few years. This Honolulu roster won the tournament in 2018, and the 2021 team finished third — forced to remain in a COVID-19 bubble through Regionals and the LLWS.

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Keith Oda, the team’s interim manager while his brother Gerald Oda recovers from COVID-19, said the team is working to hit an hour and a half to two hours every day.

“First we must attack” said Oda. “Don’t let her breathe, make her heels early.”

On the hill, Jaron Lancaster and Cohen Sakamoto teamed up to avoid meeting the Long Island team. Lancaster, sporting a blond mohican, batted seven of the 11 batters he faced in three innings.

Both Lancaster and Cohen are eligible under Little League pitch limit rules to play Monday when Hawaii takes on Texas.

The combined no-hitter was true to the team’s motto “we me” or “We are taller than me.”

“What we’re hammering into these kids is that it’s not about you, it’s about the team? said Oda. “Whatever it takes for the team to do well. Even if you don’t start, be the best cheerleader on the team.”

Esaiah Wong did not start on Friday night but followed what he had been taught. Esaiah said he was so excited for Kekoa’s first-inning homer that he nearly fell on his way out of the dugout. Wong eventually managed to hit in the fifth and he hit a three-run homer.

“I was so excited when (Kekoa) hit that home run and I was so ready to get in the game? he said. “And when I got called up, I just had to pull myself together and help the team in some way.”

Waiting the weekend for another chance might be difficult for Esaiah, but Oda expects them to be ready.

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“We tell them to attack every pitch and they work hard at it,” said Oda. “Their hard work shows in the games.”

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