SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — It only took 14 pitches for Hawaii’s Noah Shackles to set the tone Thursday night against Northern in the Little League World Series.
Shackles, who got roughed up by the Columbus team five days ago, struck out the first three batters he faced in Hawaii’s 7-4 victory over the Georgia champions.
“We didn’t hit,” Northern manager Randy Morris said. “He set the tone early with three called third strikes in the first inning. You can’t do that and win the game.”
Northern didn’t win, but all is not lost.
The same two teams play again today at 2 p.m. in Lamade Stadium. The loser is eliminated and the winner will move into Saturday’s United States championship game against Texas, a 7-5 winner over Washington earlier in the day.
Shackles, who got one out from a complete game before he exceeded the Little League pitch count, was much better the second time around against Northern. He allowed three hits, struck out nine and only walked two. Three of his four earned runs came in the seventh inning when the game was all but out of reach.
“It felt good to start the game that way,” Shackles said. “The last game I wasn’t there mentally.”
This time he was, manager Brian Yoshii said.
“Tonight is the Noah we know,” Yoshii said.
While Hawaii got a dominating performance out of its starter, Northern pieced together a pitching rotation trying to get a win without using ace Jacob Pate, who was available but did not throw.
Pate was the winner the first time these two teams met.
“I expected to see Pate tonight,” Yoshii said. “But they had a loss to give, so it was smart.”
Morris toyed with pitching Pate late in the game, but decided against it.
“We rolled the dice not starting him today, but we do have him tomorrow,” Morris said.
In Thursday’s loss, Morris used Blake Hicks, Brandon Pugh, Kobie Buglioli and Jalen Latta. Hicks, the starter who worked 1.2 innings and allowed two earned runs on five hits, was tagged with the loss,
Yoshii knows it was a patch-work effort from Morris, who was hoping to save Pate for the U.S. championship game, but that plan is now out the window with today’s game.
“We didn’t face Jacob Pate tonight, and he throws 77-76 mph,” Yoshii said. “We faced some guys with less velocity, but we put the bat on the ball.”
Hawaii pounded out 10 hits and had a 5-0 lead after three innings.
Pinch-hitter Justice Nakagawa delivered the big blow, a three-run home run off Pugh with two outs in the third.
Northern tried to rally in the sixth inning, but could not dig out of the 7-1 hole.
Hicks led the inning off with a walk. Then Pate singled to move to third.
Hicks then scored on a Shackles wild pitch. Knox Carter then doubled in Pate. Carter scored on a sacrifice by Buglioli, who had two RBI.
Pool A play has been a day behind schedule since Monday’s rainouts that included the Northern-Ohio game. Today was scheduled to be an off day for all teams before the United States and International title games on Saturday and the world championship game on Sunday.
Hawaii will pitch its No. 2 pitcher, Shiloh Baniaga, who beat New Jersey on Sunday. The West champions have Keolu Ramos and Ezra Heleski available.
In addition to Pate, Buglioli and Latta are available. Latta, who had not pitched since Northern’s regular season, came in and got two outs without allowing a run in the sixth inning.
There is no secret what Northern will do.
“Jacob will pitch, I just don’t know how much,” Morris said. “It is do-or-doe now. You have got to win the game to be in the next game.”
Morris is not ready to come home early.
“This team is not going to quit, no matter what,” Morris said. “We will talk to them tonight, then forget about this one.”