“Tank” to World Series championship
Asian team back in winner’s circle after last year’s loss to
By Mark Rogoff
The 8 Ball was at it again.
Only this time, it was for all the
the 2nd straight night the Musashi-Fuchu Little League All-Stars from
Toyko, Japan used an 8-run 4th inning en route to a convincing win.
Following an 8-run
outbreak in their 14-6 International championship win over Curacao on
Saturday, an 8-spot Sunday put away their American foe from Boynton
Beach, FL in the World Series championship match.
Japan then tacked on 2 more in the 5th
with Hirofumi Yamazaki’s solo home run and Kazumasa Sakamoto’s RBI
double, as the Asia champs became World champs by beating the Boynton
Beach goers 10-1 in front of 41,000 enthusiastic fans at Howard J.
Hokuto Nakahara’s grand slam home run in
the 4th proved to be the difference.
“When I first hit it, I thought, ‘Oh, I
hope it’s a home run,’” Nakahara said through interpreter Bill Lundy.
“And then it was. I felt great.”
Michael Broad was one strike away from escaping a 2-out, bases loaded
jam in the 4th with no damage done. But the hard-throwing righthander
plunked Eito Ono to break a scoreless tie, paving the way to 7 more
runs in the inning.
Yuutaro “The Tank” Tanaka closed out the
frame’s scoring by clubbing a 2-run roundtripper to center.
“The strategy was just to get a run or 2,”
said Japan head coach Masuni Ohmae through the interpreter.
Following the game, both Ohmae and Tanaka
confidently said 2 runs would have been enough. It turned out they
Florida’s Richie DeJesus broke up Tanaka’s shutout bid in the 5th with
an RBI single that sent Devon Travis plateward. An inning earlier,
R.J. Neal had ended any hopes of a no-hitter when the right fielder
laced a single to right.
“I was glad to go
(3.1) innings throwing a no-hitter,” Tanaka said. “Once they scored a
run I was disappointed.”
Tanaka, who earned the complete-game
victory for his 2nd win of the tournament, gave up 3 hits and
scattered an uncharacteristic 8 base-on-balls. He struck out 14 in his
132-pitch effort, recording his first 9 outs by way of the “K”. The
ace struck out at least 2 in every inning but the 4th.
“Prior to the game, I decided to let
Yuutaro pitch the entire game, unless he wanted to come out,” Ohmae
Tanaka: “I felt really good from the get-go. I got a little tired, but
I felt like I pitched a good game.”
Boynton Beach manager Ken Emerson was
impressed with Tanaka’s mound performance.
“(Our hitters) were asking for an eye
doctor so they could see the ball,” he said sarcastically. “He had the
same motion for his fastball, curveball and change-up.”
to open the scoring in the first with Takeru Ohmae on 3rd and Tanaka
at the plate. The hurler cranked a major-league fly ball to left
field, where Matt Overton camped under it to make the catch. Overton
then threw a strike to catcher Andrew Weaver to get the tagging Ohmae
for the inning-ending double play.
Overton wasn’t done there, assisting on
another play in the 3rd when Hokuto Nakahara tried stretching a double
to a triple. Nakahara laced a one-out base knock down the line in
left, where Overton relayed to shortstop Jordan Irene, who relayed to
3rd baseman Richie DeJesus for the putout.
The effort kept the contest scoreless
after 2 ½ innings.
“The team that we played tonight was an
excellent ballclub,” Ohmae said. “They are a group of classy players
Emerson also had fine things to say about the world champs. “They
brought it to us tonight,” he said. “They’re just a great team.”