Taylor North blanked 2-0 by Honolulu at Little League World Series

Tom Robinson
Special to The Detroit News

Honolulu second baseman Zack Bagoyo got off his feet twice and Kaikea Patoc-Young reached above the top of the fence in center field in support of Ryan Keanu’s one-hitter Wednesday night as the West champions from Hawaii shut out Taylor North, 2-0, in the Hank Aaron winners’ bracket final of the Little League Baseball World Series.

The Michigan and Great Lakes champions lost for the first time despite consistently hitting the ball hard, forcing them into a spot where they will need to win Thursday in order to keep hopes alive and advance to Saturday.

Taylor North's Ethan Van Belle delivers a pitch during the third inning against Honolulu on Wednesday at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.

Taylor North falls into a rematch of Sunday’s 6-5 victory and comeback from five-run deficit when it faces Wylie from Abilene, Tex. Thursday at 3 p.m.

“If we win the game (Thursday), we’re going to be right in the position we would have been if we won this game (Wednesday),” Taylor North manager Rick Thorning said.

Bagoyo and Patoc-Young were not alone in providing outstanding defense to help Keanu limit Taylor North to a single baserunner.

Keanu benefitted from a series of defensive plays beginning with his own first-inning catch of a Gavin Ulin line drive. Patoc-Young ended the fourth inning by robbing Thorning of a potential home run.

“The Michigan team hit the ball really hard, but our defense was in the right spots, was prepared and made great plays,” Honolulu manager Brandon Sardinha said.

Chauncey Adkins broke up the bid for a perfect game with a line single to right field with two out in the top of the fifth inning. No other Taylor North players reached base.

Keanu, who struck out three, was efficient. Working with a lead from the top of the second on, he needed just 60 pitches – and some special glove work – to go the distance.

The line drove back to the box accounted for the second out of the first inning.

Honolulu center fielder Kaikea Patoc-Young robs Taylor North's Cameron Thorning of a home run with an over-the-wall catch during the fourth inning on Wednesday at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.

Kekan Payanal made a long throw from deep short to retire Noah Boren and end the second.

Bagoyo soared high at second base to rob Max LaForest of a hit and make the second out of the third inning.

“Zack’s catch was just outstanding,” Keanu said.

Bagoyo was not done. He also jumped to catch a line drive, this time from Ulin, for the second out of the fourth inning. That, however, was no match for the first play.

“The first one, I thought was going to come right at me,” Bagoyo said, “but then, I realized I had to jump for it.”

After Ulin’s second hard-luck out of the night, Cameron Thorning sent a shot to deep center field with a chance to cut into the 2-0 deficit.

Patoc-Young did not need to jump. He instead got to wall just in time to reach up and take away what would have been a homer to straightaway center field on what Keanu described as “one of the best things I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.”

The first out of the fifth inning came on another catch, though less dramatic, by Patoc-Young in deep center field. Payanal then charged a Jacob Furkas groundball and hurried a throw to first baseman Chase Thompson, who made a smooth, backhand snag of the short hop.

Honolulu's Eli Lopa, left, scores in the second inning with Taylor North pitcher Ethan Van Belle covering home on Wednesday at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.

Adkins finally provided the only baserunner, but Keanu and his defense closed it out from there.

“We put the bat on the ball and they made great plays,” manager Thorning said. “It’s tough not to see the balls go through, but on the other side is great to see that we barreled it up against a phenomenal pitcher like that.”

Taylor North stayed close with a combined four-hitter, including three scoreless innings by the relief combination of Jakob Furkas and Cameron Thorning.

Rick Thorning went the multiple-pitchers route once behind, keeping Furkas and his son available for Thursday and starter Ethan Van Belle eligible for a potential Saturday rematch with Hawaii under pitch count rules.

The only two runs came in each of the first two innings with Rick Thorning saying “mistakes” contributed to each.

Patoc-Young doubled with one out in the first and scored on a wild pitch.

Honolulu had three hits in the second inning, but still needed a throwing error to score an unearned run while Van Belle was striking out three in the inning.

“Our kids are obviously upset about the loss,” manager Thorning said of the first defeat of the summer. “But, that’s just something we’ll forget about right away.

“They’re anxious to get back out there Thursday and they’re anxious to do what we have to do to get back to Saturday and see these guys again.”

Tom Robinson is a freelance writer.