Gotta be Gura
Vista Little League wins the bronze medal bout over
Japan 5-4 thanks to Ryan Gura’s walk-off RBI single
Third place in the world is nothing to snub your
In a matchup many thought they’d see in the championship
game, California and Japan battled for third-place
rights at Volunteer Stadium in front of 6,721 Sunday
The game was tied 4-4 going into the sixth, and Chiba
City Little League and Rancho Buena Vista Little League
seemed to be caught in a stalemate.
But no one thought it would be Vista first baseman Ryan
Gura’s turn to be the hero.
With one out and runners on first and second in the
bottom of the sixth, Gura drove a 1-2 pitch from Japan’s
Yuki Mizuma into center field. The walk-off single
scored Johnny Dee from second and ended the deadlock in
the favor of the West regional champs, 5-4.
“As soon as the bat hit the ball, I knew that was the
game,” said Gura.
“It seems like there’s always a surprise in the lineup,”
Vista manager Marty Miller said after the game. “There’s
always somebody that steps up, and there is always
another guy that we count on that really doesn’t. So I
was hoping for that surprise, and Ryan was it.”
It didn’t take the West Coast sluggers long to get
started, and Vista came out to a quick 4-0 lead after
the first two innings.
In the bottom of the first, starting pitcher Kazuki
Matsuo walked Vista’s Danny Vivier before striking out
catcher Josh Gomez. With Vivier on first, star Series
slugger Pimentel lofted a 3-1 offering over the center
field wall for a tape measure shot that gave Vista a 2-0
After starting pitcher Royce Copeland (0-0, 2.40 ERA)
singled to left, Reed Reznicek grounded into a 6-4-3
In the second, Gura tallied his first hit of the game
and first home run of the tournament, taking a Matsuo
pitch over the right-center field fence for a one-out,
two-run shot. Gura finished the 2005 tournament 4-for-7
(.571) with four RBI.
“Today, I actually drove the ball hard,” said Gura.
“Ryan played good for me this year, but multiple hit
games have been few and far between,” said Miller. “He
really stood up today and did his job.”
Japan manager Hirofumi Oda pulled Matsuo from the hill
in favor of center fielder Yuki Mizuma (1-1, 0.75 ERA).
Mizuma started his four-inning outing with a four-pitch
walk to Dylan Demeyer, followed by a wild pitch that
moved the Vista right fielder to second. The pitcher
settled down and got the next two batters, Vivier and
Gomez, to strand Demeyer in scoring position.
Japan threatened Vista’s four-run lead in the third. The
West champs gave up two full-count walks and a Pimentel
error to load the bases with no outs. Shuhei Iwata
singled off Copeland into left to score Fumiki Sakuyama
Japan’s second run and the inning’s second error came
again from Pimentel, when his throw home from third
missed Gomez and allowed the second of three unearned
runs to cross the plate.
So with the bases loaded and still no outs, the Vista
skipper brought out the big dogs. Miller gave Pimentel
(3-0) the nod to relieve Copeland on the hill.
The reliever faced Mizuma, who with a .500 batting
average was intentionally walked twice in last night’s
International Final. The slugger hit a deep sacrifice
fly to left field, allowing Ryo Misawa to tag up and
score Japan’s third run.
batters later, Kisho Watanabe stepped to the plate with
two out and runners at the corners. Iwata took second on
a defensive indifference, but Pimentel got Watanabe to
strike out swinging and strand two.
Japan had done damage in the one-hit third inning,
scoring three unearned runs and making it a 4-3 game.
“It was hard for us to get up for the game today,” said
Miller. “There wasn’t really anything riding on it, and
I just had a heck of a time with the kids getting them
focused on the game. They started out OK, but as soon as
[Japan] started coming back, I could see the energy
Down 4-3 in the fifth, Japan sent its go-to guy to the
plate. Taira lined a two-out solo homer over the right
field fence to tie the score at 4-4. But in the end,
Chiba City would have to settle for fourth in the world
– not a bad bragging right to go home with.
The two teams notched 10 hits between them, four for
Chiba City and six for Vista. Japan’s two pitchers
combined for 11 strikeouts Sunday afternoon, while
California’s pitching duo tallied four.
So what does it feel like to be No. 3 in the world?
“Not nearly as good as No. 1 would,” said Miller.
But the Vista players were in their glory back at the
“It feels way better than yesterday,” said Vista center
fielder Reed Reznicek. “Being No. 3 in the world – it
blows you away.”
Though Vista may not be No. 1, the manager said he is
proud what his boys have accomplished.
“I realize what it takes to get here. It takes a lot of
hard work. We’ve been here two weeks, it seems like
we’ve been here three days,” said Miller.
“There is redemption,” he continued. “We worked too
hard, we came too far to go out there and drop two
straight games and go home with a sour look on our
Miller isn’t looking toward the 2006 Little League World
Series, though. In regards to coming back to
Williamsport, the Vista manager said he isn’t too
“I might as well go buy some lottery tickets,” he said.
“You don’t get a team like this every day – you don’t
get ‘em every decade.”
In 2005 Little League Baseball World Series play, both
Vista and Chiba City premiered standout sluggers and
Two All-Star aces, Chiba City’s Taira and Vista’s
Pimentel, combined for 53 strikeouts and allowed just
seven runs in 27.0 innings. Both played a pivotal role
for his respective team at the plate as well, hitting
15-for-30 (.500) with six home runs between them.
Pimentel’s three home runs include two grand slams and
11 RBI. Both hit home runs in today’s game.