Oh yeah, Toyko
In recent Little League World Series history, Japan has never really faced adversity.
This year’s squad from Toyko, however, entered its game against Curacao Tuesday afternoon following a tough loss to Latin America the night before.
But the kids from the Asia region handled themselves just fine. Japan improved their pool play record to 2-1 by defeating Curacao, 4-2, at Volunteer Stadium.
Japan was led by pitchers Kazuki Ohkawara and Nobuhisa Baba. Ohkawara made the start and pitched well until running into trouble in the fifth inning. Baba then came on to shut the door by pitching the final 1 2/3 innings.
“I came in and I knew I could not give up any more runs,” Baba said.
Japan jumped out to an early lead by scoring four times in the first. Tatsuya Suzuki’s three-run homer to left-center field, the only hit in the inning, capped off the rally. The home run scored Yousuki Nomura, who reached base by a walk, and Baba, who reached base by being hit with a pitch.
“I knew he was throwing very fast pitches,” Suzuki said. “I was going for it and I got it. I wasn’t necessarily going for a home run hut to just hit it hard and straight.”
“It was a very good start to the game,” said Japan coach Kiichiro Kubo. “We knew we had to start out the game by getting runs. Our strategy from the beginning was to get four runs.”
Curacao tried to get something going in the fourth. Dinyor Antonia led off the inning with a single to left. After a strikeout, Erick Rafael singled to center, advancing Antonia to second. But Japan pitcher Kazuki Ohkawara settled down and retired the next two hitters.
The Caribbean champs again staged a rally in the fifth. Arthur McDonald led off with a base hit to right. Two batters later Richendo Martis hit into a fielder’s choice to third, but Yousuki Nomura’s throw to second sailed into right field and allowed McDonald to advance to third. Argenis Daal then bunted for a base hit but neither runner on base could advance.
With the bases loaded and one out, Ohkawara struck out Dinyor Antonia. He walked the next batter, forcing in one run.
Japan manager Yohichi Kubo brought in Baba to close the door.
Erick Rafael stepped to the plate and delivered a base hit up the middle. Martis scored, but center fielder Masayuki Itoh threw out Daal at home who also tried to score, for the third out.
Baba then worked a perfect sixth, striking out all three batters he faced, to shut down Caribbean for good.
“Losing is never easy,” said Curacao manager Mark van Zanten. “I’m proud of my players. They gave all they had. I cannot expect more. We just had one bad inning. We are accustomed to playing from behind, but this time four runs was too much.”
Both Japan and Curacao must wait to see the outcome of Tuesday night’s match-up between Transatlantic and Latin America to determine whether or not they’ll be playing in the next round.
“Destiny is written,” van Zanten said. “You cannot change it. If we go to the second round we go to the second round. If not, we go back.”
“I can’t say whether I’m confident or not because it’s out of my hands,” coach Kubo said. “The power is not with us.”
- Mark Rogoff