Japan in, once
8-run inning too much for Curacao
By Mark Rogoff
The offensive train just keeps on chugging
for the Japanese Silver Sluggers, with no derailment in sight.
Following 4-1, 7-0, 17-0 and 7-1 stops
along Williamsport’s crushed red-brick road, the Japan express to the Little
League World Series championship stayed on course Saturday afternoon.
It’s full steam ahead for the Asia region champs, who beat Curacao
14-6 in the International championship to move on to Sunday evening’s
World Series game.
“Our hitting has been very strong,”
admitted Japan head coach Masumi Ohmae through interpreter Bill Lundy.
“But we’re counting on our pitching tomorrow.”
Ohmae said he is likely to start in the
Series championship Yuutaro Tanaka, who tossed 6.0 innings of one-run
ball in Japan’s pool-play opener against Curacao. He also pitched an
inning of relief on 2 separate occasions to stay fresh.
“We’ll continue to work on our hitting,”
added Ohmae. “I can’t say there are specifics (that we work on). We’re
working on all the fundamentals.”
Tanaka broke out of his Series-long power
slump, slugging his first 2 home runs of the tournament. His 3-run
blast in the first opened the scoring. His opposite field, solo homer
in the 6th capped the 11-hit attack.
Ippei Endoh and Eito Ono also homered for
Japan. Nine different Japanese batters had at least one hit.
“I was very happy to have finally gotten a
home run,” Tanaka said. “To get 2 in the same game is great.”
Japan’s 8-run 4th inning spelled doom for
Curacao after they had tied it with 4 runs in the 3rd. Hirofumi
Yamazaki’s RBI single put Japan back in the lead for good. After an
Ippei Endoh RBI infield single, Ono’s pinch-hit, 3-run homer put the
game out of reach.
Japan tacked on 3 more before the 3rd out
was recorded, sending 13 batters to the plate and finishing the inning
Masato Komuro, who
relieved starter Shigeki Umeda, picked up the win by holding Curacao
to just one run on 2 hits over the final 3.2 innings. He struck out 3
while walking one.
“I am very happy with my performance
today,” the 5-foot-2, 101-pound Komuro said.
Added Ohmae: “Coming in today, he really
had a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Today he really felt like
Komuro came on after Umeda had given up the 4 runs in the 3rd, quickly
inducing a groundout to shortstop Kazumasa Sakamoto and striking out
Carol de Palm’s 3-run homer to
right-center highlighted Curacao’s 4-run frame.
Japan had allowed just 2 runs in 4 games
entering Saturday afternoon’s contest.
Prior to the game, Ohmae had words of
encouragement for his all-stars, keeping in mind his loss in the
International championship 3 years ago with a different squad of
“I was here before, and I lost,” he said
to his tater tots. “Let’s not do that again.”
Ohmae said the thought of losing never
crossed the team’s minds, even as the game was knotted at 5-5 after
“The pitches were thrown too high,” said Curacao assistant coach
Michelangelo Celestina of Japan’s 14-run output. “They hit a lot of
home runs (because of that). Never in my life (have I seen an offense
like that). They hit the ball very well. They are amazing.”
Japan takes a .364 team batting average
into Sunday’s showdown against the U.S., the final stop on Japan’s
express to glory.