Nevada already had defeated Waipahu, Hawaii, once during U.S. West Region play and appeared poised to do so again when a screaming ground ball was hit toward right field.
Runners were on second and third and Nevada was about to take a 5-3 lead when Hawaii second baseman Kainoa Fong intervened. The slick-fielding second baseman quickly moved toward his right onto the right-field grass, snared the grounder and, without hesitation, made the difficult throw to first base. Fong's throw just beat the runner to the bag and Nevada's rally was over.
Two innings later, Hawaii was the West Region champion and was headed to the Little League World Series after edging Nevada, 4-3.
Those are the type of plays it takes to win championships. Those are the types of plays all the athletes competing in this year's tournament have made all summer.
The reward for those stellar plays is a set of games on every 11- and 12-year-old Little Leaguer's field of dreams, along with a lifetime's worth of memories.
Following is a look at some of the top American players to watch as 16 teams try their best to leave South Williamsport as world champion:
Top 10 U.S. Players to Watch
A 5-foot-11 pitcher-shortstop who wears a size 13 shoe, Ellis packs a powerful wallop at the plate and dominates on the mound. Ellis went 10-for-21 at the Great Lakes Regional, hitting four home runs, while scoring nine runs and driving in six. Ellis hit two home runs in the semifinals but might have been even better on the mound. The hard-throwing right-hander went 2-0, allowing only one run and seven hits in 13 1/3 innings. He struck out 26 and threw a complete-game one-hit shutout in a 2-0 over Great Lakes finalist Ohio in Indiana's first regional game.
Lake Charles, La.
One of the heroes in Lousiana's dramatic 8-7, seven-inning Southwest championship win over Texas, Fontenot packs a wallop at the plate and dazzles on the mound. Fontenot hit a game-tying, two-out, sixth-inning home run to force extra innings against Texas and put an exclamation point on his terrific regional tournament performance. The 5-7, 150-pound shortstop-pitcher went 10-for-14, scored 11 runs and drove in four more. He was just as impressive on the mound, going 2-0 while allowing no earned runs in 9 2/3 innings. Fontenot allowed just four hits and struck out 20.
Rapid City, S.D.
After struggling throughout districts and states, Minnick went on a tear and was the toughest out during the Midwest Regional. He went 14-for-17, hitting out of the No. 9 slot while acting a leadoff hitter at the bottom of the order. He hit a home run, four doubles and drove in 10 runs, while scoring seven times. A terrific defensive catcher, Minnick delivered under pressure in the Midwest championship, putting South Dakota ahead to stay, 3-1, hitting a two-out, two-run fourth-inning single. He went 2-for-2 in the final.
A national television audience witnessed how talented Reid is when he powered Florida to an 11-0 Southeast championship win over Alabama. Reid went 2-for-4 in that contest, crushing two home runs and driving in seven runs. The team's cleanup hitter was dangerous throughout regionals, going 7-for-13 with three home runs and a tournament-high 11 RBI. Reid also scored six runs and was solid at shortstop and on the mound. Reid pitched three scoreless innings of relief in the Southeast championship against a team that had hit 20 home runs in four games.
One of the top sluggers in a heavy-hitting lineup, Schreiber flexed his offensive muscle in front of a nationwide audience Monday, clubbing two mammoth home runs, while driving in five runs in an 8-3 Mid-Atlantic championship win over Pennsylvania. It was the latest of many terrific games for Schreiber this summer. An athlete who plays the infield and outfield and pitches, he hit .500 during the Mid-Atlantic Regional, crushed five home runs and added a U.S.-high 16 RBI. Schreiber was effective on the mound as well, going 2-0 and helping Maryland enter the World Series undefeated.
Mill Creek, Wash.
The cleanup hitter in a fearsome offense, Soderqvist easily can deposit a pitcher's mistake on the other side of the fence. The first-third baseman was at his best in the Northwest Regional, going 10-for-14 with four home runs and 10 RBI. He drove in 10 runs and had a clutch RBI double in the championship against Oregon. Soderqvist homered in four of his first five regional games and helped Washington outscore its opponents, 80-8. A versatile athlete, Soderqvist also helps provide pitching depth. He was perfect in 1 2/3 innings, allowing no hits or walks while striking out three.
When the pressure was highest, Tice was at his best in the New England championship. The hard-hitting second baseman clubbed a long one-out, sixth-inning home run that tied the game with New Hampshire after Connecticut was two outs away from elimination. Tice excelled throughout the tournament, going 10-for-17 with three home runs, nine RBI and 13 runs scored. He was dominant on the mound, too, pitching a complete-game in a semifinal win over Vermont. Tice allowed no runs and only two hits while striking out 12 in six innings at regionals.
Mill Creek, Wash.
Standing 6-1, Todd can look intimidating on the mound. Add in a fastball that has been clocked in the upper 70s and he also looks downright unhittable at times. Todd shut down every opponent he faced during the Northwest Regional, going 3-0 and allowing just eight hits in 14 innings. He struck out 27, walked none and threw a complete-game five-hitter against Oregon in the championship. Todd is a tough out at the plate as well. Providing pop in the middle of the lineup, he went 10-for-18 in regionals and scored 14 runs. He also homered, ripped two doubles and added 10 RBI.
Heating up at the right time, Winchester helped power Hawaii to a hard-fought 4-3 win over previously undefeated Nevada in the West Region championship. The third baseman clubbed two home runs in that game, hitting the game-winner in the fourth inning while breaking a 3-3 tie. Winchester hit three home runs in his last three regional games and went 4-for-11 during Hawaii's 5-1 run through the tough bracket. A reliable defender, Winchester did not make an error in five of Hawaii's six regional games.
A force at the plate and on the mound, Yacyk has been a driving force in Maryland's world championship quest. The strong 5-foot-11, 165-pound shortstop-first baseman hit six home runs during the Mid-Atlantic Regional, a U.S. high, while going 8-for-14 and driving in 13 runs. Yacyk scored 14 runs and hit three home runs in his first regional game. In that 12-0 win, he pitched a no-hitter, striking out 11 and walking none. The tall left-hander was so dominant at regionals that he did not allow a hit in his first 10 innings pitched. Yacyk went 2-0, striking out 19 in 12 1/3 innings pitched and allowing just five hits.