Hawaii pitcher Aukai Kea produced a truly memorable performance in his team’s victory in the U.S. bracket championship game of the Little League World Series, though even his heroics couldn’t really outshine what his coach was able to produce.
Facing off against a Peachtree (Ga.) Little League squad which took them to 11 innings in their first meeting, the West representatives leaned heavily on starting pitcher Aukai Kea, and what they got was remarkable.
Kea struck out 15 of the 18 outs his team needed to advance, including all three in the first and the sixth inning, occasionally pumping his fist for emphasis as the Hawaiian Little Leaguers excelled while their neighbors back home are battered by torrential rains from Tropical Storm Lane.
And while Kea was the biggest story on the field, the best play of the day was turned in by his manager, Gerald Oda. In the bottom of the fifth inning with his team at the plate, Oda extended an arm to pull in a remarkable one-handed catch of a foul ball.
The grab elicited a smile from the catch and jubilance from his players as the Hawaiians neared a berth in the Little League World Series championship game on Sunday, where they will face off against the Asian representatives from Korea.
When it was all over, Oda again set the stage for class, leading his team in presenting the vanquished boys from Georgia with leis, a traditional sign of Hawaiian hospitality, and then crediting their families with donating to Red Cross relief efforts for Tropical Storm Lane.
And, most importantly, Oda was able to put the victory and the entire LLWS tournament in perspective when asked about his his team would approach Sunday’s huge game.