Published November 20, 2014
The straight brim of his powder blue cap pulled low over his forehead, 12-year-old Shiloh Baniaga struck an imposing pose with his cold stare from the mound.
Baniaga hit a homer in the top of the first, then struck out six and allowed three hits over five innings to lead Waipahu, Hawaii, to a 3-1 win Sunday over Toms River, N.J., in one of the best games yet at this year's tournament.
Both sides hit big homers and got solid pitching, but Baniaga did both by himself. His homer into the hedges past the 225-foot wall in left-center gave him a boost before he took the hill.
"It made me feel more confident," he said coolly afterward. "I knew I had this game."
New Jersey, Germany and Saudi Arabia were knocked out of contention.
Tokyo beat Manati, Puerto Rico, 7-2 on Sunday evening, while Pearland, Texas, stayed unbeaten with a 14-1 rout of Fairfield, Conn.
The early star was Baniaga, who consistently coaxed New Jersey hitters into swinging at two-strike curve balls. His brother, Sheyne, got the nickname "Bubbles" when he played on the Hawaii squad that won the 2005 Little League title.
This year's manager, Brian Yoshii, said he bestowed the younger Baniaga with the nickname "'Bulldog' ... because of the way he pitches, because he never gives up."
He got plenty of help from his defense, too, including 4-foot-11 second baseman Kahoea Akau's leaping snare of a line drive to rob Zach Burns of a base hit with one out and a runner on first in the sixth.
The players haven't been in Hawaii since Aug. 4, but when teammates Akau and Baniaga were asked if they missed home, they said in unison "No" with big smiles and a shake of their heads.
"Can you blame them? It's once in a lifetime," Yoshii said.
New Jersey got strong defense, too, including Joey Rose's running grab into the left-field tarp and his throw to nail Brysen Yoshii, the manager's son, trying to tag for home. Catcher Jeff Ciervo got the runner after reaching out for the throw and sweeping back with his glove.
Despite the 0-2 start, New Jersey manager Paul Deceglie said there will be plenty his players will remember about their run at the World Series — on and off the field.
"The family oriented team that we have, remember all that, so this way when they all have kids of their own, they'll do the same thing," he said. "That would make me proud."
Earlier Sunday, Mexico staved off elimination by torching Germany's pitching for 13 hits, including two homers and four RBIs for Enrique Penaloza. One of his shots sailed deep past the 225-foot wall over right-center, rolling down a driveway as souvenir-seekers scurried after it.
"That was by far the longest home run I hit in my life," the 13-year-old Penaloza said through interpreter Sergio Guzman.
Kaleb Stokes and Tyler Ullmann each hit solo shots for the team from Germany comprised mainly of children of U.S. military or base workers.
Luis Bazan knocked in three runs and Irving Indunis had three doubles and two RBIs to help Panama stay in contention in a game that ended after the top of the fourth because of Little League's 10-run rule. Braden Barnett had both hits for Saudi Arabia, a team made up primarily of the children of Americans living abroad.
Ryusuke Ikeda pitched 3 2-3 innings of scoreless relief and Japan took advantage of some defensive lapses to score all of its runs in the first two innings and remain undefeated. Ikeda struck out seven and walked just one in place of starter Ryo Motegi, who allowed the first three runners to reach base in the top of the second.
Yomar Valentin hit an RBI double and Victor Valentin added an RBI single for Puerto Rico.
Pearland's powerful offense ran aggressively on the basepaths and took advantage of Connecticut miscues to go to 2-0.
Beau Orlando led off the game with a homer, and added an RBI double in a seven-run second before the game was called after four innnings because of the 10-run rule. Connecticut will play an elimination game Monday night against Washington.