Japan Wins 55th
Little League World Series
Just one day after defeating Curacao with a walk-off homerun in the International Championship, Japan went at it again with some last inning heroics.
Only this time, it was for all the marbles.
In Sunday’s World Series Championship, Japan made yet another comeback by beating U.S. Champion Florida, 2-1.
Down 1-0 and heading into the bottom half of the sixth, Japan tallied two runs on a Nobuhisa Baba single that traveled just beyond the reach of shortstop Stuart Tapley. Yuusuke Nomura, who reached base via a throwing error, came around to score the game-winning run.
“I was expecting a fastball, but I got a curveball,” Baba said. “I got good timing on the hit. I thought for sure I would get a hit that time.”
And he was right.
But Japan actually didn’t have intentions on winning the game in the sixth.
“Our plan going in to the final inning was to get one run,” said coach Kiichiro Kubo. “We weren’t trying to win the game all at one time. The errors made it easy for us.”
Both runners that scored in the final frame reached base by two defensive miscues.
“Ever since we came here our intentions were to win,” added Kubo. “Tonight was very exciting and a little nerve-racking. I think (Lafavers) got tired.”
Florida starting pitcher Justin Lafavers tossed 5 1/3 innings and took the tough-luck loss. He struck out eight, but they all came in the first three innings.
Florida took a 1-0 lead in the top half of the second. With one out Andrew Cobb reached on a fielder’s choice. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and came around to score on a Jeff Lovejoy bloop hit to left field.
In the bottom half of the inning, Japan came right back with a rally of its own. Baba led off the inning with a single to right. After a Natsuki Sugisawa strikeout, Tatsuya Suzuki hit another single to the right side, advancing Baba to second. Both runners then moved up 60 feet on a wild pitch.
And with runners on first and third, Lafavers struck out the next to hitters to end the threat and the inning.
Florida would try to add on to their lead in the fourth. With two outs, Japan pitcher Atsushi Mochizuki walked the bases loaded. He was able to induce Stuart Tapley into flying out to the right fielder, however, to end the inning.
Florida would attempt to put more runs on the board in the fifth. Brandon Brewer led off the frame with a double to center field. Two batters later, Will Blankenship singled to left, advacing Brewer to third. Zach Zwieg hit a sharp grounder to short and Brewer was hung out to dry between third and home. Catcher Tatsuya Suzuki made the tag for the second out of the inning. Andrew Cobb then grounded out to Mochizuki to end the top half of the fifth.
Florida would try yet again to add an insurance run in the sixth. But after a lead-off double by Lovejoy, the Florida offense could not push across any more runs.
Lovejoy finished the day 2-for-2 with a walk and an RBI.
Mochizuki did not let the Florida rallies get to him while on the mound.
“I felt like I pitched well,” he said. “I did get tired in the fourth inning. We were in a pinch and I knew I had to come through.”
And that was the story for Japan the past two games. The team came through when it had to, and it was better late than never.
“We’ve been a good ball club all year long,” Kubo said. “We’ve been a very close team.”
- Mark Rogoff