SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) – Sheyne Baniaga homered onto the hill beyond the left-field wall and Kini Enos scattered five hits over five innings to help West Oahu of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, defeat Lafayette, La., 2-0 on Thursday and earn a berth in the U.S. championship game of the Little League World Series.

Baniaga’s homer with a runner on first was the only hit allowed by Lafayette starter Jace Conrad and earned West Oahu (4-0) a spot against Rancho Bueno Vista of Vista, Calif., in Saturday’s U.S. title game.

In the other game Thursday, Christopher Garia allowed two hits and Willemstad, Curacao, scored 11 runs in the fifth inning to rout Mangilao-Barrigado, Guam, 16-1 to advance to the international championship game against Japan.

Baniaga’s homer off a 1-1 pitch sent fans sitting on blankets and beach chairs on the left-field hill scurrying for the souvenir.

Beniaga was greeted by happy teammates with pats on the helmet at home plate and chants of “Whoop, there it is!” from Hawaii fans.

The shot spoiled an otherwise fine pitching performance from Conrad, who held the big boppers from West Oahu hitless for the first three innings. Hawaii entered the contest batting .333, with eight home runs in the first three games in South Williamsport.

Lafayette (2-2) threatened in the top of the third after Jace’s brother, Brenn, reached on a fielder’s choice and Sam Scofield doubled to put runners on second and third.

But Enos got Jace Conrad to bounce out to first base on the next pitch.

Lefty Quentin Guevara relived Enos in the sixth and final inning, and got Connor Toups to ground out to second to end the game and eliminate Lafayette.

Earlier Thursday, Curacao put on a hitting display that would make native son Andruw Jones proud.

The defending champs from the Pabao Little League sent 15 batters to the plate in the top of the fifth to seal the victory. The game ended after Guam hit in the bottom of the inning because of the 10-run mercy rule, and Guam was eliminated.

“The kids felt the pressure of playing against the defending world champions and finally hit the wall in the fifth inning,” Guam manager Shon Muna said.

Jones, the Atlanta Braves slugger, is from Willemstad and the Curacao team tries to watch Braves games in between practices. Jones is hitting .272 with 40 homers this season.

“He’s my idol,” Curacao outfielder Sherman La Crus said softly after the game through an interpreter. La Crus wears the same number as Jones, No. 25, and had two of Curacao’s 13 hits.

He did a good interpretation of his idol at the plate, too, hitting a home run in the third that landed near the light pole beyond the left-field fence and doubling in the fifth inning.

After just beating the throw home on an Alexander Rodriguez single, La Crus jumped up, slapped his hands and swaggered back to the dugout.

He didn’t talk much afterward.

“I felt good,” said the 12-year-old La Crus, nodding, with a serious look.

Curacao was hitting .182 for the tournament coming into Thursday’s game and had just four hits over its previous two outings. They face a tough task on Saturday against Japan, which beat Curacao 9-0 earlier in the tournament.

Curacao manager Vernon Isabella said he had his team take batting practice against live pitching over the last couple days, rather than taking swings in the batting cage.

It worked. Curacao hit two home runs and roped line drives all over the field.

“I expected them to explode at any time,” Isabella said through an interpreter.

Guam (3-1) scored its only run in the first inning after Gerald Borja walked, advanced to second on a Christopher Garia wild pitch and went to third on a fielder’s choice. Borja then scored on another wild pitch.

Garia dominated after that, at one point striking out five straight hitters. He didn’t allow a hit until Alomar Rdialul doubled to the right-field corner in the fifth inning and was lifted for a reliever three batters later.


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