walk in the park
Curacao enters Sunday afternoon’s final against Ewa
Beach, Hawaii ready to defend its World Series title
after beating Japan 2-0.
For the first time in Japan’s tournament play, the other
team got on the board first.
In a Saturday night rematch of last Sunday’s bout
between the Asia and Caribbean region champs (in which
Curacao suffered a crushing 9-0 defeat), Curacao
redeemed itself, shutting out the previously undefeated
Chiba City Little League 2-0 in front of 16,595 at
Howard J. Lamade Stadium.
With this International Championship win, Curacao is
granted the right to defend its 2004 Little League
Baseball World Series Champion title.
“We know that [our boys] are world champions,” said
Curacao manager Vernon Isabella through interpreter
Alecto Nicolaas. “We came here out of 16 teams to reach
the finals and we know [the players] are going to fight
tomorrow to win the game.”
In the bottom of the third, an error on Japan third
baseman Shuhei Iwata (following a Jurickson Profar
single) scored Dienston Manuela from third. Profar moved
to third on the play and scored on cleanup batter Sorick
Liberia’s single to center field.
The Caribbean skipper said the first two of Curacao’s
three hits came off a Yusuke Taira (1-0, 0.00 ERA prior
to Saturday’s start) curveball.
“In the first game, Japan came with a pitcher [Taira]
with lots of curveballs,” said shortstop Sorick Liberia
through Nicolaas. “We just stayed back, waited for the
breaking ball and then hit it off.”
Naeem Lourens laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Liberia
to second before Darren Seferina was hit square on the
left elbow by the first pitch he saw. Japan got out of
the inning on an Alexander Rodriguez strike out down two
Japan threatened Curacao’s 2-0 lead with two outs in the
third. After a leadoff single, Taira was moved to second
by a cleanly executed Takuya Sakamoto sacrifice bunt. An
intentional walk of Yuki Mizuma put runners on first and
second, and a five-pitch walk to pinch hitter Kosuke
Suzuki loaded the bases for Kazuki Hatada.
“Numbers one, two and four [in the lineup] are Japan’s
best hitters,” said Isabella. “They can turn around the
game with one swing.”
With first base open, Isabella gave the sign for the
With the bases loaded, Profar (0-0, 3.79 ERA prior to
Saturday) got Hatada to strike out swinging and got out
of the inning unscathed.
“I was a little surprised [by the intentional walk],”
said Japan manager Hirofumi Oda through interpreter Bill
Lundy. “But there’s nothing I can do about it.”
It was Curacao’s turn to be a threat in the bottom of
the third, when Taira faced Rylan Reina with two outs
and the bases loaded. Taira recorded his seventh
strikeout of the night as Reina left three stranded.
“We didn’t quite expect some of the curveballs that were
coming in to us,” said Oda.
After getting the first two batters of the fourth inning
out on strikes, Profar pitched himself into a jam by
giving up a walk on four straight tosses to Iwata (who
moved to third on a pair of wild pitches) and a walk to
With runners on the corners, Sakamoto stepped to the
plate. Profar got the catcher to chase a 2-2 pitch up
and away to get out of the inning.
“We probably could have bunted a little bit more, but
when the chance was there, we just didn’t quite have
control of our bats,” said the Japan manager.
In the bottom of the fifth, Profar drew a leadoff walk
and advanced to second on Taira’s third wild pitch of
the game. A grounder from Liberia moved the pitcher to
third with just one out and Sherman La Crus at the
La Crus rolled one back to the pitcher, who threw to
first for out No. 2. Profar tried to take home plate,
but couldn’t make it in under the tag of catcher
Japan escaped additional damage in the fifth, but they
were still down 2-0. It was now or never for the Japan
All-Stars. Profar returned to the hill in search of the
first shutout of the Asia champs in the 2005 tournament.
With just one out remaining in Japan’s Williamsport
tour, Profar got Kazuki Matsuo to ground out of
tournament play on a 2-2 pitch. Profar retired the side
“We wanted to win it all, but … it’s a dream come true
just to come here,” said Oda.
Taira pitched a complete game and went 1-for-1 at the
plate. The Japanese hurler allowed three hits and five
walks, a small leap compared to his three-hit, one-walk
Sunday night shutout of the Caribbean champs.
“Taira pitched a great game today,” said Oda. “He
pitched it where he wanted to, but in the previous game
they were swinging at that [curveball]. They weren’t
swinging at it tonight.”
Profar also tossed a complete game, striking out 12 and
According to Rayshelon Carolina, who notched Curacao’s
third and final hit off a slap-hit fastball in the
third, the Caribbean squad feels invincible when Profar
is on the mound.
Curacao intentionally walked Mizuma (.583 BA) in his
first two plate appearances. Mizuma went 2-for-3 in the
teams’ previous meeting, scoring twice and knocking in
four of Japan’s nine runs.
In Mizuma’s only official at-bat, Profar struck the
Japan slugger out swinging.
Curacao is set to meet United States champ Ewa Beach,
Hawaii at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in the Little League World
Series Championship game at Lamade Stadium. Liberia will
start on the hill against Hawaii lefty Quentin Guevara.
“Since we came here,” said Isabella, “we have pressure,
especially from the press down in Curacao, to defend the
And though the manger feels the pressure, to Isabella,
once the game starts it’s just another ball game.