Jeremy Crivello showed why he was selected the Most Outstanding Player in his division by crushing a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning yesterday to give Hilo, Hawaii, a thrilling 5-3 victory over West Linn, Ore., in the U.S. championship game of the Cal Ripken World Series in Aberdeen.
There was no doubt about Crivello's shot when it left his bat, and it put Hawaii into today's Ripken World Series final against Mexico, the International champion. It also made a winner out of pitcher Aisha Sueda, the only girl playing in the series for 12-year-olds.
"I couldn't sleep last night when I found out I was pitching today," said Sueda, who has been playing baseball since the age of 5, but said she will likely play softball in high school. She also pitched Hawaii to its 9-2 region final win over North California and had a win in relief in the Ripken World Series.
Both Hawaii and Mexico have won all six games in the series and will play for the title, at 4 p.m. today on Comcast SportsNet. Cal and Bill Ripken will be the analysts, and Josh Lewin will be the play-by-play announcer.
Hawaii trailed feisty Oregon right-hander Ryan Barnes 3-1 going into the bottom of the fifth but tied the game on Samson Manu-Olevao's two-out, two-run single that landed inches from the glove of diving Oregon center fielder Tanner Kewley.
Barnes, who had just no-hit Arkansas, 4-0, on Thursday to advance Oregon to the playoffs, had struck out Sueda with runners on second and third. Sueda entered the game batting .385 and was named to U.S. All-World Series team as a second baseman.
After Sueda kept Oregon off the board in the top of the sixth - she finished with an eight-hitter, with three walks and three strikeouts - Barnes gave up a leadoff single to center by Blaine Pilayo in the bottom half of the inning.
Barnes, who gave up six hits, walked six and struck out five, struck out Aaron Soong after he failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt and got the dangerous Kolten Wong (two homers, 10 RBIs) to pop out.
The stage was set for Crivello, who got both the win and a save in Friday's 6-5 win over Lexington, Ky., returning to the mound in the last inning to get the last two outs after going the first five innings. Crivello took it deep on a 1-1 pitch.
"I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it," Crivello said. "I promised Coach [Wardell] Lancaster, who had a birthday the other day, that I would hit one for him."
Barnes said Crivello hit "an inside curveball that was hanging a little bit." He added, "My arm was getting a little sore at the end, but we did real good.' "
Hawaii manager Kaha Wong, who played at Southern California with slugger Mark McGwire and roomed with quarterback Rodney Peete, said he had no doubt that going with Sueda was the right move and "didn't think about taking her out" when he visited the mound in the fourth after Justin Williams' double scored Jack Simon to give Oregon a 3-1 lead.
"We'll be ready to go today with Jeremy [Crivello], and they're going with their ace [Mexico's Nestor Lopez Zamora]," Wong said.