SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Northern looked in charge Friday afternoon in the Little League World Series.
The Columbus all-stars were up 4-0 in the third inning over Hawaii, and their ace, Jacob Pate, was on the mound and in control at Lamade Stadium.
“I felt good with a 4-0 lead and Jacob pitching,” Northern manager Randy Morris said
That easy feeling didn’t last long.
Hawaii did to Northern what the Columbus team did to its opponents in the Southeastern Regional — spotted them a lead then roared back. Hawaii won 12-5 and earned a spot in the United States championship game today against Texas.
Northern finished with an 18-2 all-star record. The team was among the top eight Little League teams in the world. Hawaii and Northern played three times in a week, and the West Region champion won two of them.
“That’s a fighting team,” Morris said. “There’s no easy out in their lineup, and I give them all the credit in the world. They were ready, prepared, and they did a good job at the plate.”
And they did the bulk of the work against Pate, a power pitcher who has carried a heavy load for Northern throughout all-star play. Hawaii roughed up Pate for four hits and seven runs, six of them earned.
“They shortened their swing on Jacob,” Morris said. “He had seven strikeouts. That is not normal for him. He is usually in double digits.”
Pate was the winning pitcher last Saturday, when Northern beat Hawaii 6-2. The fact that the Hawaii hitters already had batted against him was an advantage, Hawaii manager Brian Yoshii said.
“I told them last night, I said, ‘I expect you guys to hit and get on because, at the top of the order, you’ve seen him three times already,’” Yoshii said. “So I think I put some pressure on them and said you need to get on base and not help them out … and that’s exactly what they did.”
Pate said it all can’t be blamed on the fact that Hawaii already had batted against him.
“That was a little part of it,” he said. “But we didn’t come out ready to play like we should have.”
Northern sent 10 batters to the plate in the third inning and broke on top 4-0, thanks to the clutch hitting of shortstop Brandon Pugh and pinch-hitter Matthew Lang.
After Jalen Latta grounded out to first, catcher Blake Hicks walked and Pate singled to put runners at first and second with one out.
Pugh then ripped a double to the left-center field gap that scored Hicks and Pate. Pugh also scored on the play when the left fielder made a throwing error getting the ball into the infield.
Knox Carter walked and moved to third on Troy Gilliland’s single. Lang singled up the middle to score Carter for a 4-0 lead.
Hawaii answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning.
Hawaii benefited from the newly instituted instant replay rule. After Hawaii’s Ty DeSa walked on four pitches, Hicks appeared to throw out DeSa trying to steal second. The out call was challenged by Hawaii manager Brian Yoshii and reversed after replay review.
Morris said they got it right. “I felt like that call would be overturned,” he said.
Pate left the mound with two outs in the fourth inning when he reached his 85-pitch limit.
Hawaii tacked on three more runs in the fourth and added five in the fifth. “At that point, you could feel it slipping away, and we are not used to that,” Morris said.
Northern’s final run came in the fifth, when Gilliland drove in Carter.
Yoshii was gracious in victory.
“I give a lot of credit to Jacob Pate,” Yoshii said. “He’s a great pitcher, and the Southeast is a great team, an excellent team.”