|Lucky No. 13
Japan’s ace Yusuke Taira leads Chiba City Little League
to a 9-0 victory over defending Little League Baseball
World Series Champion Curacao
Six innings, 21 batters and 13 strikeouts after Yusuke
Taira first took the mound in Japan’s 9-0 romp of the
2004 Little League champs, the Chiba City ace can’t
possibly consider the number 13 unlucky.
In front of 4,750 at Volunteer Stadium Sunday night,
Taira tossed a shutout, allowing just a trio of hits and
going 1-for-2 with two walks and home run to bring his
team’s record up to 2-0 heading into the last game of
“I had really good control of my curveball today,” said
Taira through translator Bill Lundy. “I’m glad that I
was able to throw my fastball through the end of the
But Curacao wasn’t so lucky. A barrage of Japan runs and
Curacao wild pitches was waiting on deck.
With two down in the top of the sixth, Curacao trailed
the All-Stars from Japan 5-0. Reliever Curacao
Christopher Garcia (who entered the game one out into
the first inning) put runners on at first and second
with back-to-back walks. Batting in the three-hole,
Kisho Watanabe loaded the bases with an infield hit.
A pitch from Garcia got past catcher Willie Rifaela and
allowed all three runners to advance. Taira scored
easily, making it 6-0.
With two runners still in scoring position, shortstop
Yuki Mizuma stepped to the plate. Mizuma liked what the
Caribbean hurler had to offer and took it deep over the
center field fence for a three-run shot. The
five-foot-seven 13-year-old pumped his fist all the way
around the bases.
Garcia left the game with one out remaining, and Curacao
skipper Vernon Isabella called on first baseman Naeem
Lourens to toe the rubber and finish out the sixth.
Lourens got the defending champs out of trouble when he
struck out Fumiki Sakuyama with Tomokazu Kaize waiting
in scoring position, but not before Japan lofted its
lead to 9-0.
“We knew we had a strong opposition,” Curacao manager
Vernon Isabella said through translator Alecto Nicolaas.
“We’ll have a meeting in the dorm [tonight] and tell
them it’s not over yet.”
And the Series isn’t over for the Caribbean champs, and
the 1-1 team from Curacao is ready to put this loss
Four consecutive walks, intertwined with three wild
pitches and a fielding error, led off the game and cut
starting pitcher Dienston Manuela’s outing to a mere six
batters. The Curacao hurler let in three runs before
Isabella gave Garcia the nod for the remaining two outs.
“He just lost control,” said Isabella of his starter.
“It’s a kids game and he couldn’t find the strike zone.”
The two-hour, 12-minute game saw five wild pitches (two
from Manuela and three from Garcia), a passed ball and
an error from Curacao, which accounted for four Japan
“There were some wild pitches,” said Chiba City manager
Hirofumi Oda through translator Bill Lundy. “We made the
best of the situation, but we still left three on.
“We still only had seven hits today, but the hits were
much better than yesterday,” he continued. “We are a
power-hitting team traditionally.”
In the fourth, Taira hit a monster over the center field
fence, pumping his fist as he rounded the bases and
tallying his first home run of the Series. His homer
marked the fifth Japan runner to cross home plate.
Two innings later, Taira returned to the mound in search
of his complete game. The ace finished his three-hit
shutout without showing the slightest sign of fatigue.
The pitcher faced four batters in the sixth, fanning
So how did it feel to beat the defending champions?
“It was awesome,” said Taira. “To beat last year’s champ
is just the best.”
© 2005, Little League Baseball
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