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Central East Maui falls to Louisiana in U.S. title game

Valley Isle boys to play for third place at Little League World Series

Central East Maui's (from left) Marley Sebastian, Jaren Pascual, Caleb Chai and Nicholas Nashiwa walk off the field after their 9-5 loss to River Ridge, La., in the U.S. championship game of the Little League World Series on Saturday in Williamsport, Pa. -- AP photo

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — It had the makings of one of the best rallies the Little League World Series had ever seen as Central East Maui attempted to erase a nine-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Central East Maui scored five runs on four hits, but ultimately fell short of its goal of reaching the world championship game as River Ridge, La., turned a double play to give the Southwest champions a 9-5 victory in the U.S. championship game Saturday.

Central East Maui will play Chofu City, Japan, in a consolation game today at 4 a.m. HST — the game will be televised on ESPN. Louisiana faces Willemstad, Curacao, for the world championship at 9 a.m.

In Saturday’s U.S. title game, Louisiana scored nine runs over the final two innings to hand Central East Maui its first loss of the Series — the tournament has a double-elimination format until the U.S. and International championship games.

Maui manager Brad Lung declined to attend the postgame press conference.

Louisiana shortstop Stan Wiltz celebrates after forcing out Maui's Bransyn Hong at second base to end the game. -- AP photo

The loss came with Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino and his son, former Major League Baseball player Shane Victorino, in attendance.

“We are incredibly proud of our Maui boys and their accomplishments,” Mayor Victorino said in a post on his Instagram account. “Not only were they the first Maui team to reach the Little League World Series, but they also played for the U.S Championship! We are so grateful to have had such an amazing group of boys represent our county, especially through the sportsmanship they showed on and off the field. Don’t count Maui out to return next year!”

The U.S. championship game was a rematch of the teams’ first game of the Series, which Maui won 5-2.

On Saturday, down to its last three outs, Central East Maui chased two pitchers in the sixth inning as both Conner Perrot and Ryder Planchard struggled to find the strike zone.

“My coach came up and just told me we needed strikes,” Planchard said. “I just came up and did my job. I threw strikes and we won the U.S. championship.”

Central East Maui's Nicholas Nashiwa slaps hands with his coach after reaching base on a walk. -- BRETT R. CROSSLEY photo

Maui’s Nakea Kahalehau opened the bottom of the sixth with a single before a walk was issued to Logan Kuloloia. Two singles followed — including a run-scoring hit by Duke Aloy — to force a mound visit from Southwest manager Scott Frazier, who handed the ball to Perrot. A strikeout followed the pitching change to get the inning’s first out. Perrot then walked two with the bases loaded to close Maui’s deficit to 9-3, and Bransyn Hong followed with a two-run single.

“I just kept thinking please don’t screw this up, because I’m not going to be able to go home,” Frazier said. “That was pretty much what was going through my mind.

“Hat’s off to those guys. I never felt comfortable at all in the game. That’s why they were undefeated. I was never comfortable until we got the second and third outs on the same play.”

After Jaren Pascual was hit by a pitch to load the bases once again, Louisiana shortstop Stan Wiltz ended the game with an unassisted double play on a liner hit by Kahalehau.

“My instincts took over when I saw the line drive hit to me,” Wiltz said. “It was just another play for me. I just did it. I wasn’t really thinking about anything. I just did what I was capable of doing.”

Maui starter Logan Kuloloia delivers a pitch Saturday. -- BRETT R. CROSSLEY photo

Louisiana 000 054–9 11 0

Central East Maui 000 005–5 7 3

William Andrade, Derek DeLatte (5), Conner Perrot (6), Ryder Planchard (6) and Egan Prather. Logan Kuloloia, Isaac Imamura (5) and Duke Aloy. 2B–Louisiana: Marshall Louque 2, Jeffrey Curtis; Central East Maui: Bransyn Hong. 3B–Louisiana: Louque.

Leading hitters–Louisiana: Reece Roussel 2-3, 2 runs, 2 RBIs; Louque 3-4, run, 4 RBIs; Prather 2 runs; Planchard 2-2, run, RBI; Stan Wiltz 2 runs. Central East Maui: Hong 2-2, 2 RBIs; Nakea Kahalehau 2-4, run.

Maui’s Nakea Kahalehau collides with Nicholas Nashiwa in shallow right field as both attempt to make a play on a fly ball. -- BRETT R. CROSSLEY photo