Curacao into International Championship
Clutch hitting by Curacao shortstop gives Caribbean first win over
Asia team in 4 years
Forget about history.
Even though the Asia Regional Champions had defeated the Caribbean
Regional Champions in every International Final since the Little
League World Series expanded to its current 16-team format, the
Pabao Little League from Willemstad, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles
was not phased going into Wednesday’s International semifinal
showdown against Chinese Taipei.
On the strength of the
dominating right arm and lethal bat of five-foot-11 Carlos Pineda,
Curacao in walk-off fashion broke its four-year losing streak
against Asian teams.
Jonathon Schoop twice
came through for his team when they needed him most, tying the
game with a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth and winning
it with a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh. With its
9-8 victory, Curacao advances to the International Championship
game on Saturday afternoon.
“This is awesome,”
said Curacao coach Michelangelo Celestina through interpreter
Carlos Pagan. “This is awesome for us. In Curacao, it is our goal
to beat the Asia team when we come to the Little League World
Pineda gave Curacao
the early advantage in the bottom of the first. The 168-pound
slugger hammered a 2-1 fastball to the base of the
left-centerfield wall with two runners in scoring position. The
double made the score 2-0.
Taiwan made up the
difference in its next at bat. Chung Chen-Chia slammed a two-run
double of his own with two-outs in the top of the second to even
the score at 2-2. Taiwan took a one run lead in the next inning
when Wang Wei-Chung knocked in Chen Hung-Ta with a double that hit
the center field wall on the fly.
The “Pineda Show”
continued in the bottom of the third. With two-outs the clean-up
hitter sent a sharp grounder to third that should have been out
number three, but the lengthy Pineda legged out the infield single
to give his team some life. After advancing to second on a wild
pitch, Pineda sprinted across the plate as Jurickson Profar beat
out an infield single of his own.
Curacao regained the
lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. After Rigynöel Rondei led
off the inning with a walk, Christopher Garia carved a triple into
right, plating Rondei and giving Curacao a 4-3 advantage.
The one-run lead would
not last for long. In the next inning, Chi-Hung sent a seeing-eye
single beyond the reach of diving Curacao third baseman Profar
that brought Wang Chun-Po in from second.
The next Taiwan run
came in of a rare defensive mistake by Curacao. With one away and
Taiwan threatening with runners at first and second, Pineda
induced Liao Chun-Lin to ground into what should have been an
inning-ending double play. Shortstop Jonathon Schoop cleanly
fielded the grounder and flipped the ball to second baseman Sorick
Liberia. Liberia hurried the throw and the ball sailed wide left
of first baseman Dimitri Eugenia. The Liberia error allowed Chen-Chia
giving up the go-ahead run, Pineda allowed the flood gates to
open. Pineda walked the next batter he faced and then Hung-Ta
drove extended the lead by blasting a line drive home run to left
field. Taiwan had a commanding 8-4 lead going into the bottom of
Then came the Curacao
sixth inning. Ten batters came to plate as the never-say-die
Curacao squad scraped together a four-run inning that sent the
game into extra frames. Charlton Martis got the rally started for
Curacao with a bloop single to shallow right. After a strikeout, a
walk and another Texas leaguer loaded the bases for Garia. Garia
took an outside fastball to right to drive in one-run and chip
into the Taiwan lead. With one-out still one the scoreboard and
the bases full, Liberia took a fastball to the face to bring in
another run. The ball left Liberia with a bloody nose and Curacao
with only a two-run deficit to make up.
Schoop was the next
Curacao batter to come to the plate. The five-foot-3 righty got
his pitch, which he promptly sent into left, bringing in two runs
and tying the score at 8-8.
“I have faith in God,” Schoop said through Pagan. “I can do
anything in baseball with my faith.”
With the ultra
dangerous Pineda due up next, Taiwan manager Cheng Ying-Chun opted
to bring Lai Yi-Ming into the game.
Yi-Ming’s first order
of business was to issue Pineda a free pass to the open first base
(Schoop had advanced to second on a throw home after his single).
Yi-Ming narrowly got out the jam, inducing a ground out and a pop
fly to right to send the game into the seventh inning.
It was Schoop again in
the seventh. Not only did he come in to pitch in relief and strike
out the side in the top of the inning, but he delivered at the
plate for the second consecutive inning. With the bases full and
two outs, Schoop slapped a single to left, brining in Rondei and
sending Curacao on to the International Championship.
“Once I hit the ball I
knew that we were going to win the game,” Schoop said. “I raised
my arms on my way to first base because I knew that we had won.”
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