Kawaihau Community Little League defeated Northwood LL of South Carolina to advance in the Junior League Baseball World Series Tournament.
Kauai’s boys — representing the West region — won, 12-7, in eight innings Thursday in Taylor, Mich. to earn a berth in the United States championship game.
Northwood LL represents the US Southeast region.
“It was a back-and-forth battle all the way,” said Kawaihau head coach Justin Malina in a phone interview Thursday.
Tied at seven runs each after seven innings, Kawaihau plated five runs in the eighth, capped off with a 2-RBI double by Cole Frye.
“Like I always say — the boys, they battled,” Malina said. “We made a lot of mistakes in the first two innings. Made a lot of errors, and it could have cost us the game. But we came back — chipped away and came back with the lead.”
“The boys, they pulled through. They always do. It never seems to surprise me. They just pull through,” he added.
In the bottom of the extra inning, Kawaihau sealed the victory on a 4-6-3 double play, Malina said.
“What a way to end the game,” Malina said. “It was very exciting. It was a nail-biter. At the end, the score doesn’t dictate the game. The game was back-and-forth with both teams. It was just that one good inning, and it just so happened it was our good inning.”
Kawaihau defeated West Salisbury LL — of Maryland and representing the US East region — in the opening round on Sunday, 4-1.
The United States championship game is set for 12 p.m. Saturday local time. Kawaihau’s opponent in the US final is to be determined.
A win would give the Kauai team a place in the Junior League Baseball World Series Tournament championship game against the international champion. That final game is scheduled for 8 a.m. Sunday local time.
International teams competing come from Chinese Taipei, Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Panama and Mexico.
Those from the US represent Michigan, Maryland, South Carolina, Texas and Kawaihau representing Hawaii.
“I tell my boys every meeting, ‘Enjoy it. Enjoy the ride. No matter what happens, enjoy it. Have fun,’” Malina said. “It seems to work. Like I said, they don’t surprise me anymore. When it’s down to the nitty-gritty, they pull through.
“Everybody tells me, ‘Hey coach, awesome job.’ I didn’t do one thing. The boys do everything,” he continued. “I just guide the canoe. That’s all I do — guide the canoe.”