Game 29
Mexico 5
 vs. Japan 4

Saturday, August 23, 2008
12:30PM ET

Viva La Mexico!!
Mexico advances to World Series championship game after squeaking past Japan, 5-4

By Dan Ryan

Things were looking dismal for Mexico in the International Championship, trailing Japan 2-0 through two-and-a-half innings.

But then, in the bottom of the third, Mexico was able to get to Japan’s Ryosuke Moriuchi, who had been solid from the start.

Mexico used a five-run third, highlighted by Sergio Rodriguez’s two-run homer, to take a 5-2 lead over Japan. It would prove to be enough as Mexico would hold off Japan 5-4 to earn a spot in Sunday’s World Series Championship game.

“He is one of they key figures on our team,” Mexico’s manager Gustavo Gomez said of Sergio Rodriguez. “He has shown it by throwing the ball perfectly and hitting the ball really well. His work (speaks) for itself.”

Rodriguez’s home run came with Mexico trailing 2-1, giving them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Ruben Molina had plated the first Mexico run with an RBI double.

After a run-scoring fielder’s choice grounder by Hector Dragustinovis gave Mexico a 4-2 lead, Hector Guevara closed out the five-run outburst with an RBI single.

Mexico’s Jesus Sauceda knew that each run would be important against a Japanese squad that has proven its ability to come back in this year’s tournament. Japan would score two runs in the fifth to make it a one-run game.

“We noticed that they really wanted to beat us because it was a rematch from 2006, and we could tell because they played hard,” Sauceda said through translator, Sergio Guzman.

The game Sauceda refers to was Mexico’s 3-0 loss to Japan in the International Championship two years ago in South Williamsport.

Jesus Sauceda, who pitched a no-hitter on Sunday against Europe, came on in relief with two outs and a runner on first in the fifth. He struck out Ryosuke Moriuchi to end the inning. Sauceda then recorded the final three outs in the sixth to end the game. The righthander remains eligible for tomorrow’s title game because he threw less than 20 pitches.

Manager Gomez knew his team could withstand the pressure Japan brought in the fifth inning.

“We had to catch our breath, but desperation was not going through our heads,” Gomez said. “Jesus had nice relief work. We knew that if we got desperate, Japan would have jumped on it.”

Japan’s batters had been dominating the batters box this year by crowding the plate and swinging at outside pitches. After recovering from a rough first inning, Mexico starter Carlos Balboa seemed to get his pitching under control and keep Japan off-balance. He allowed four runs (two earned) in 4.2 innings, while striking out six and walking none.

Japan’s Shingo Ariyasu was disappointed after the performance.

“I wanted my boys to play the final tomorrow,” Ariyasu said through a translator. “I was asking the boys to play their best, but some didn’t swing the bat (as well).

As for Mexico, their journey is not yet over. Between now and the Championship game, the players will spend all of their time preparing.

“We are one game away for the whole thing and we are not going to lose our focus,” Gomez said. “Where we are is a result of all (our) focus and dedication as a team. As soon as they are done they will have time to relax.”

Sunday also happens to be Carlos Balboa’s birthday. What better gift could there be than delivering a Little League Baseball World Series title to Mexico?

2008, Little League Baseball Incorporated
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