Nishina’s 2 RBIs help lift Hawaii past Michigan

KATELYN HIBBARD/Sun-Gazette Members of the Great Lakes Regional champions from Grosse-Pointe, Mich., gather together between innings during Sunday’s game against Honolulu, Hawaii in the winners’ bracket.

A closer look at the Honolulu, Hawaii’s 8-3 win over Grosse-Pointe, Michigan on Sunday at Lamade Stadium.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Ka’olu Holt ending Michigan’s first-inning rally — Michigan already had taken a 1-0 lead and was poised to do more damage, loading the bases with two outs. A big hit could have put Hawaii in early peril but Holt stayed calm and induced an inning-ending pop out. One inning later, Hawaii took control.

HAWAII PLAYER OF THE GAME: Hunter Nishina — Showcasing the team’s depth, Nishina delivered a strong performance off the bench. Nishina went 1 for 2 with two RBIs and delivered a third-inning RBI single that gave Hawaii an 8-1 lead.

MICHIGAN PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jarren Purify — The talented third baseman and pitcher keeps displaying his all-around skills and played another strong game Sunday, going 2 for 3 with two runs. Purify makes things happen on the bases and his speed helped give Michigan its two runs. He edges out Preston Barr who put on a defensive clinic at shortstop and also went 2 for 3 with an RBI.

BIG INNING: Hawaii second — Everything changed in the second as Hawaii scored six runs and turned a one-run deficit into a 6-1 lead. Hawaii did not mash the baseball, but delivered two timely hits, took advantage of five wild pitches, drew two walks and was hit by three pitches. Jace Souza’s RBI single made it 3-1 and Aukai Kea slammed an RBI double that made it, 4-1.

BEST EFFORT: Holt and John De la Cruz’s pitching — Holt and John De la Cruz were outstanding, combining on a 2-hitter in their five innings. Holt and De la Cruz retired the last 13 batters they faced and combined for six strikeouts. De la Cruz threw 1 2/3 innings of perfect relief and Hawaii has every pitcher available for Wednesday’s game.

FLASHING LEATHER: Michigan left fielder Brennan Hill immediately showed off his defensive range when he tracked down Mana Lau Kong’s deep drive. Hill covered a lot of ground, reached his glove up and caught the ball in stride. Just a batter later, Michigan was at it again. Barr went into the hole, stopped an Aukai Kea grounder from going into center field and made a snap throw to first for the second out. Hawaii left fielder Caleb Okada did a nice job tracking a Ryan Henderson flyball hit near the wall. He stayed with it off the bat, knew where the wall was and made a good running catch.

WHAT THE ADULTS SAY: “There was a lot of excitement with all the Major League players over there and all the festivities, but nonetheless, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend time on a baseball field and see a Major League Baseball player come walking across and shake his hand,” Hawaii manager Gerald Oda said. “For our kids from Hawaii it’s going to be something they remember for the rest of their lives.”

WHAT THE KIDS SAY: “It was nervewracking because you don’t want to mess up in front of them (Major Leaguers),” Holt said. “You want them to like you.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Hawaii moves to Wednesday’s winners’ bracket final and plays Staten Island, New York. The West champions are within a victory of reaching the U.S. Championship. Michigan remains alive at the Series and plays an elimination game Monday against Des Moines, Iowa. The winner of that game reaches the U.S. Final Four.

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