SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, PA – For a week and a half at the Little League World, no team came close to Hawaii. Sunday’s tournament was no different.
Hawaii took home teammates from Kikwa Bayanal and Kama Angel in the first half, leading to a 13-3 victory in just four rounds on Sunday over Curaçao in the Little League World Championship.
The LLWS title is the fourth in Hawaii. He won in 2018, and the Honolulu team itself finished third last year, when COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented international teams from participating.
How good is Hawaii? In six games, all wins, the closest margin was four runs. Hawaii outperformed competitors 60-5.
Hawaii coach Gerald Oda said: “We are fortunate that everything clicked in time. I am so grateful these kids played so loose and relaxed.”
Part of that run was without Oda, who missed several games with COVID-19. Oda also managed the 2018 Hawaii team.
He said: “After 2018, I thought the next time I came to Williamsport would be a spectator, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be back in 2022 to coach a team.”
Hawaiian Jaron Lancaster was again dominant as he threw all four innings, while only allowing three runs, three hits and 10 hitters in Curacao.
Jaron said: “I knew Curacao would be a great team. My mentality was to go there, do my best and do my best. I know my attack and my defense have my back.”
Garron’s father, James Lancaster, said all the work that went into the title race was worth it. “It’s been a tough ride, we haven’t been home in over a month,” said Lancaster, whose family lives about 4,800 miles from central Pennsylvania.
Curaçao took the first lead of any team over Hawaii in the tournament when Davey Jay Rijkic led the match with what looked like a one-hit, but shot off into second place when none of the middle players were covering that bag. Davy Jay eventually came to score on a wild floor.
Oda said, “Sooner or later, someone will score. We told our children to keep fighting and fighting. It will be a great day.”
Hawaii was only a few minutes late. Running away at home from hitter in front Kikoa to the left field, and a shot from Kama barely cleared the wall in the middle, reigniting the Hawaii team and taking the team out of the Western District 2-1. She also chased Curacao champion Shemar Jacobs.
“Anytime anyone can score a huge run,” Oda said, “Whenever someone hits a home run, the whole team gets excited and lifts everyone’s spirits.”
The match ended in the fourth half when Kama scored one goal down the left line, in which Isaiah Wong scored to win and another championship for Hawaii. According to Little League rules, a team wins if it is ahead by 10 or more runs after four rounds.
“I saw the ball fall and I saw the coach send in Ruston [Hiyoto]Kama said. “I was so emotional. It was the best time of my life.”
Curaçao holds one title, back in 2004. But the team from a small Caribbean island about the size of Springfield, Massachusetts, made it to the final in 2019 as well this year.
Curaçao coach Zeno Everett, whose team won five knockout matches to reach the championship title, said: “I am very proud of these guys. We are champions and the second team in the whole world. Nobody expected us to be here”.
After the cup presentation and press conference ended, and most of the fans were gone, the Hawaii players celebrated their title the way a group of boys aged 10 to 12 did. They went sliding on cardboard down the big hill behind Lamad Stadium.