I was on some really good Little League teams and some, well, not-so-good ones. One of my favorite memories is from my year on the White Sox when, after losing our first eight games of the season, a teammate asked our coach if the “WS” on our hats stood for “We Stink.”
I remember having my game-tying hit wiped off the books because the game was quickly called for darkness. I remember my friend striking me out on a pitch that bounced on home plate and up into the catcher’s mitt.
I remember warming up in the bullpen before game time and the sound of the ball striking the leather. I remember the way the grass felt beneath my cleats and the crunch of sunflower seed shells as I walked into the dugout.
Starting today, the Kauai boys representing Kawaihau will begin their quest for a Little League Intermediate World Series title. That’s a level far beyond anything I ever got to experience, but I’m sure it will only compound the lasting memories they have already made this season.
Kawaihau will open up against a team from Minnesota with the hope of moving on to face Texas in round two. While the highest level Little League World Series takes place in Williamsport, Pa., the Intermediate tournament plays in Livermore, Calif. Kawaihau had to do a lot to get to this point, winning the West Regional with a 9-3 win over Everett, Calif., on Wednesday. Things get even more real starting today with just six American teams and five international squads vying for the crown.
US OPEN TO WRAP UP TODAY: The women’s Championship Tour contest is down to four contenders and the men’s QS 10,000 event has just eight remaining. Only Maui’s Tanner Hendrickson remains on either side of the draw. Today is the final day of the waiting period at Huntington Beach, Calif., so a pair of US Open of Surfing champions will be crowned by day’s end.
After a number of early exits for the men, Hendrickson made his way into the quarterfinals with a heat win over Kolohe Andino and Dion Atkinson before a man-on-man win against Billy Stairmand. He’ll now take on Andino again for a chance to reach the semifinals. Hendrickson is guaranteed 5,200 qualifying points, which will move him up from 51st in the QS rankings and into the top 20, with a chance to move into the top 10 if he advances any further.
The younger generation had some better luck in the Junior Men event with both Kalani David and Seth Moniz reaching the semifinals before their knockouts. Kanoa Igarashi came up just short of a US Open title, finishing second to Griffin Colapinto.
Kauai’s Mainei Kinimaka reached the quarterfinals of the Junior Women, but she was knocked out there along with Mahina Maeda, Dax McGill, Bailey Nagy and Aloha Lopez. Zoe McDougall and Brisa Hennessy made it to the semis but no Hawaii wahine surfed the final.
The last bit of drama will be seeing how much of a lead Courtney Conlogue leaves Huntington with. She is guaranteed to overtake Carissa Moore for first place on the Championship Tour, but a pair of heat wins will give her three titles this season and a healthy lead going into Lower Trestles next month. But a win for Sally Fitzgibbons will keep her very much in the world title mix and Bianca Buitendag is hoping to make it three straight finals appearances.
All eyes are on California today. Good luck, Kawaihau!
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.