Sometimes a loss can be turned into a gain and it did for Hawaii in yesterday's Cal Ripken 12-and-under World Series championship game at Cal Sr.'s Yard in Aberdeen, as a United States team from Hawaii repeated as series winner with a 5-2 victory over Mexico.
Kean Wong threw three scoreless innings in relief for Hilo, Ridge Hoopi-Haslam homered for the second consecutive game and Kawika Pruett, who was named the Most Outstanding U.S. Player, had two hits, including a two-run double in a three-run first inning that set the tempo.
Hoopi-Haslam's two-run homer to left-center gave Hilo a commanding 5-0 lead after two innings in front of more than 5,000.
The 11-year-old Wong's older sister, 12-year-old Kiana Wong, who was the left fielder, said, "We conquered the world."
Oahu, Hawaii, won last year's final by 1-0 over Mexico and Hilo returns the trophy presented by Cal Ripken Jr. last night to its scenic state.
Hilo lost, 2-0, to Bryant, Ark., in its final game of pool play and it carried over into the first game of the playoffs as Hawaii fell behind 3-1 to Satsuma, Ala., in the early innings. Hawaii came back to win, 7-3, and there was no stopping its offense the rest of the way.
Hawaii avenged the loss to Bryant by beating the Arkansas team, 8-1, in the U.S. final on Saturday to advance to the championship game.
Pruett said the loss "woke everybody up and we got it back together against Alabama. I can't explain how good I feel."
"It took a loss to get the kids going," said Hawaii manager Kaha Wong, who is the father of Kean and Kiana. "We lost our third game in the regional [Pacific Southwest] and came back to win five in a row to get here for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at Cal Sr.'s Yard.
"If we can win again in the region, we would have five kids back."
Kean Wong entered in the top of the fourth inning with no outs and Hilo leading 5-1. A walk and a botched bunt loaded the bases, but Wong got Ray Gutierrez, who was named Mexico's Player of the Game, to pop up.
A fielder's choice scored Mexico's second run and Wong got a ground ball to end the inning. Wong retired the last six batters in succession.
"I had full confidence in my brother," Kiana Wong said.
Kean Wong said he "felt no pressure," and "was just worried about throwing strikes."
NOTES -- This was the last time the event will be held with 60-foot bases and the 46-foot pitching distance. "We go to 70 foot, 50 pitching next year and will play real baseball," Ripken said. "[Runners] will be able to take leadoffs and it won't be so pitching-dominated." Ripken also said he hopes to "expand the number of international teams in the future." ... World champion figure skater and Harford County native Kimmie Meissner threw out the ceremonial first pitch on top of a tarp as a light rain fell. email@example.com
Hawaii 5, Mexico 2
Mexico 001 100 - 2 3 1
Hawaii 320 00x - 5 7 1
Delgado, Orozco (1), Blanco (2) and Ceballos; Pruett, Martins (3), Ke. Wong (4) and Kaaua. 2B: H--Martins. HR: H-Hoopi-Haslam.