WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — The Citrus Park Little Leaguers have little time to sulk after losing their first game of the summer.
If they do for too long, their season will be over, and school is just ahead.
Waipio, Hawaii, scored four fourth-inning runs to erase a two-run deficit, then pulled away for a 10-2 win Sunday at Lamade Stadium.
Now the scenario is simple for Citrus Park (1-1): defeat Shelton, Conn. (1-1) at 6 tonight, and the team from northwest Hillsborough County advances to Thursday's U.S. semifinal; lose and Citrus Park is eliminated.
"I told the parents when we had our first meeting that we're going to lose at some point and hopefully it's in pool play and not an elimination game," manager Joe McGuire said. "We haven't lost a game in two years, so something like this was bound to happen.
"I watched (Connecticut) in the regional finals and live twice. I'm not making any predictions."
Hawaii (2-0) clinched the top spot in Pool B and plays the second-place team from Pool A on Wednesday.
Citrus Park built a 2-0 first-inning lead, but Hawaii scored 10 runs in its final three at-bats, scoring more runs during that time than the last nine Citrus Park opponents combined.
Any comeback hopes Citrus Park had disappeared in the bottom of the fifth when Tanner Tokunaga hit a two-out grand slam and extended the lead to 10-2. Hawaii scored its last six runs in the fourth and fifth innings with two outs.
Citrus Park uncharacteristically hurt itself with sloppy defense, making three errors. A two-out, fifth-inning error allowed Tokunaga the opportunity to hit his grand slam.
Citrus Park scored two runs in the first against Khade Paris. Ryan McCullers and Michael McGuire drew consecutive walks and eventually both scored after Paris threw four wild pitches. Citrus Park, however, stranded two baserunners and was unable to pad its lead. It stranded seven runners in all, including at least one in each of the first four innings.
"I think sometimes when these guys get ahead, they tend to go into cruise control," the elder McGuire said. "I keep telling them you can't do that against good teams like this, and tonight they got that 2-0 lead and then started watching a lot of two-strike pitches go by."