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Obama: Hawaii Little League world champions 'make America very proud'

The Hawaiian youngsters became world champions and drew the praise of former US President Barack Obama....

Posted: Aug 28, 2018 6:33 PM
Updated: Aug 28, 2018 6:33 PM

The Hawaiian youngsters became world champions and drew the praise of former US President Barack Obama.

Not bad for a team all under the age of 13.

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The Honolulu outfit won the 2018 Little League World Series with a 3-0 victory over South Korea in the finals in Williamsport, Pennsylvania Sunday.

"Congratulations to Hawaii for winning the Little League World Series! You make America very proud," Obama tweeted.

The Hawaiians, representing the West region of the US in the 16-team event, added a third title for the state to its wins in 2005 and 2008.

The victory makes Hawaii one of seven US states to win at least three Little League titles.

Honolulu's lead hitter Mana Lau Kong paved the way when he drove the opening pitch over the center field fence for a homerun.

His ecstatic teammates stormed out from the dugout to embrace him as he reached the home plate.

"It was great," pitcher Ka'Olu Holt said as quoted by the Associated Press. "Because we all knew that pitcher was tough to hit."

In the third inning, Hawaii's pinch-runner Zachary Won added a second run and Taylin Oana came home from second base for a third.

From the pitching mound, Holt limited the South Koreans to only two hits to complete the first shutout in a title game since 2002.

The Hawaiians allowed only three runs in the entire tournament and struck out 53 batters in 34 innings.

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"Someone asked me, what's the strength of the team, and I honestly have to say, it's that they play as a team," Hawaii team manager Gerald Oda said.

"Ka'Olu pitching, or Aukai pitching, Mana hitting a home run, it's everybody just doing the best that they can do. Once they bought in and once they accepted their roles, it makes my job a lot easier."

The team from Seoul has played in three of the last five Little League World Series finals, winning once in 2014.

Eight teams from the US and eight from around the world contest the annual World Series finals at the sport's headquarters in Williamsport.

Despite Obama's endorsement ringing in his ears, Holt had other priorities after the win.

Visit cnn.com/sport for more news and features

"I want to go to the beach," he said.

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