Reporting from San Bernardino — Huntington Beach Ocean View needed just one win to advance to the Little League World Series.
And though his Ocean View team ultimately fell, 4-1, to Waipio Little League of Hawaii in the Western Regional championship game Sunday at Al Houghton Stadium before an estimated crowd of 13,285, Manager Tod Minato said he was pleased with his team's poise.
Minato also gave credit where it was due:
Noah Shackles, the 13-year-old Waipio right-hander, pitched a complete game while striking out nine.
"How many pitches did he throw?" Minato asked reporters.
Eighty-three, he was told.
"Man, that's pretty good if you can pitch a complete game against us in 83 pitches," Minato said.
Said Waipio Manager Brian Yoshii: "He's our ace."
Shackles said he was motivated because Ocean View had defeated Waipio in pool play Aug. 7.
"We came back ready," he said.
Before the game, Minato cautioned his players that a trip to Williamsport, Pa., wasn't theirs yet. He told them not to think about it. He told them to look at it as just another game.
"I wanted to relieve the pressure," he said.
His team seemed loose as it built a lead, saw that lead taken away, and then fought back to threaten in the final inning.
Representing Southern California, Ocean View struck first with Michael Gates' solo home run in the third inning. But a Waipio comeback seemed almost inevitable. By then, Waipio had twice failed to score with multiple baserunners, and each time, Ocean View pitcher Logan Pouelsen worked overtime to escape those jams.
"He was throwing a lot of pitches, so we knew eventually we would get to him," Yoshii said.
In the fourth inning, Waipio did, scoring four runs, the last two on a triple by Shiloh Baniaga to right field.
Ocean View made it interesting in the bottom of the sixth by putting two runners on with one out and the potential tying run at the plate.
But Shackles struck out one batter and got the next to ground out, sealing Waipio's trip back to Williamsport, where it won the World Series in 2008.
"This is a dream come true, pretty much," Shackles said.
Waipio will play Columbus (Ga.) Northwest Little League at 3 p.m. Saturday.