|Japan swims through
Pool D, holding off Venezuela to complete 3-0 sweep
Runs don’t come in bunches, but Japan scores enough to
The name of Japan’s game was persistence this time
It wasn’t the easiest of games vs. Venezuela by any
means, as the pesky bunch from the Latin America region
refused to let Asia run away with it, at one point
eliminating a 4-0 hole by tying the score in the third
thanks to back-to-back home runs.
Japan left the bases loaded in the first and third
innings, and left runners on at the corners in the
fourth, preventing itself from any big inning.
“I was getting a little worried because they are a
power-hitting team and they are very fast,” Manager
Hirofumi Oda said through interpreter Bill Lundy.
But in the end, the Chiba City children prevailed,
scoring at least one run in all six innings and holding
off Venezuela 7-4 before 5,025 at Volunteer Stadium.
Tomokazu Kaise’s RBI single with no outs in the top of
the fourth snapped the 4-4 draw, giving Japan the lead
for good and sending his mates to a 3-0 record with
first place honors in Pool D. Japan will play the
second-place finisher of Pool C in Wednesday’s
“It wasn’t necessarily the plan I had (to go 3-0),” Oda
said. “But the result (of advancing) was what I was
Japan jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.
Yusuke Taira, who led off the game with a single to
center, scored from third on a passed ball after
advancing to second on Takuya Sakamoto’s hit batsman and
third on a wild pitch. Yuki Mizuma’s one-out RBI single
to right scored Sakamoto.
Pinch hitter Jun Yamamoto made it 3-0 in the second,
when his hot smash grounder went off Richard Alvarez
Jr.’s foot at third, scoring Taira from second as the
ball bounced into left field. Taira had reached on an
infield single and made his way to second on a passed
The lead increased to 4-0 with one out in the third,
when Ryo Misawa worked a bases-loaded walk. The next two
hitters struck out to end the threat.
“We were fortunate to get some of the runs in the middle
of the game,” Oda said. “But we were trying to get one
run at a time.”
Venezuela erased the four-run deficit in the bottom of
the third with back-to-back homers, beginning with
Richard Alvarez Jr.’s towering three-run shot to the
grassy knoll in left-centerfield. Martin Cornieles
followed with a solo shot that hit in the camera tower
in straightaway center field.
Oda pulled starter Shuhei Iwata immediately after the
blasts, and summoned Yuki Mizuma to stop the bleeding.
Mizuma promptly allowed a pair of base runners on a walk
and a hit, but got the next three in order on a
sacrifice bunt and two strikeouts. He then retired nine
of the last 10 batters he faced, including eight
straight to close it out. Mizuma even cracked a solo
home run to lead off the sixth for good measure.
“I was very excited, and very excited for the team as
well,” said the soft-spoken Mizuma through Lundy.
“We didn’t have much time to warm him up,” Oda said. “We
were a little concerned with having no warm-ups in the
bullpen, but he got better toward the end (of the
Venezuela falls to 0-2, but has slim hopes for the
second-place slot in Pool D. They certainly gave Japan
all they could handle in the tough setback.
“I am happy with the fact that we competed with a very
tough team,” said Manager Richard Alvarez Sr. through
interpreter Luis Sanchez. “The kids were kind of sad,
but then they found out we were still alive.”
Japan will take Tuesday off even though Oda says his
team’s hitting could be better.
“This team’s batting has still not come up to the level
it’s capable of getting at,” he said. “We have to keep
working on that.”
© 2005, Little League Baseball
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