SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Don’t tell Columbus Northern manager Randy Morris his team has room for error tonight when it plays Hawaii in the Little League World Series.
Northern, the Georgia state champion representing the Southeastern Region, is 2-0 going into the 7 p.m. ESPN2 game in Lamade Stadium. Hawaii, which lost 6-2 Saturday to Northern, must beat the Columbus team twice to advance to the United States championship game.
“We want to win it now,” Morris said. “We don’t want to mess around.”
Messing around would be losing tonight and forcing the deciding game Friday, which would be at 2 p.m. in Lamade Stadium on ESPN. Morris does not want to think about the possibility of having to play Friday and use more precious pitching the day before the U.S. championship game.
“We need to get it done, whatever it takes,” he said.
Hawaii advanced with a strange 6-4 win Wednesday over Ohio.
The West champion got only one hit — a three-run homer from Matthew Campos — but it was the centerpiece of a six-run fourth inning. Ohio had six more hits than Hawaii but failed to win.
Morris has most of his pitching staff available tonight. Only starter Troy Gilliland, who got a complete-game shutout win Tuesday over Ohio, can’t pitch because of Little League pitch-count rules.
Jacob Pate, who has been Northern’s ace throughout the all-star season, pitched four innings and got the win against Hawaii in what was the tournament opener for both teams. Pate had an excessively high 40 pitches in the first inning. He allowed two earned runs, both coming on a first-inning home run by Ty DeSa. In that game, Pate struck out seven and walked four. Gilliland, who has thrown nine scoreless innings in the World Series, worked the last two innings against Hawaii.
Northern likely will start Blake Hicks on the mound against Hawaii, Morris said.
Hicks, the regular catcher, has not pitched in Northern’s first two games. He last pitched Aug. 9 against North Carolina in the Southeastern Regional. He allowed two runs on two hits in two innings. He finished the region with a 9.00 ERA.
Hicks pitching means Pate will catch. Little League rules don’t allow a player who pitches in a game to catch more than three innings in that game. If Morris uses Pate as a pitcher, he will have to juggle that rule with both players.
Hawaii manager Brian Yoshii will have his ace, Noah Shackles, available. Shackles, with a 7.20 World Series ERA, went the distance in the loss to Northern. He allowed three hits and struck out five. Northern left fielder Knox Carter hit a two-run homer off Shackles.
Morris knows what to expect.
“There is no doubt it is going to be another tough game,” he said.
Yoshii said he is more concerned about his team than Northern.
“I think it all depends on us,” the Hawaii manager said. “If we come all out and play with all of our heart, we’ll be all right. That is all I can ask of them.”
Ohio manager Ken Coomer lost to Northern and Hawaii on consecutive days. He gives the edge to the Columbus team.
“Naturally, Georgia is in a better position,” Coomer said. “But Hawaii does have its ace available. Both teams are great. But Georgia might have an advantage because they have to lose two.”
Pate said he likes his teams chances.
“We have a really good shot,” Pate said. “We have seen their ace. And our pitching is set up good.”