Game 31
West
5 vs.
Asia 4

Sunday, August 28, 2005
7:30PM ET
Lamade Stadium

 

Gotta be Gura
Vista Little League wins the bronze medal bout over Japan 5-4 thanks to Ryan Gura’s walk-off RBI single

By Allie Weinberger

Third place in the world is nothing to snub your nose at.

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 afternoon.

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 lead.

After starting pitcher Royce Copeland (0-0, 2.40 ERA) singled to left, Reed Reznicek grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

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 from third.

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.

Two 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 going away.”

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 International Grove.

“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 faces.”

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 optimistic.

“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 hurlers.

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.


Game Photos

Photos by Kevin Connolley & Jim Connolley


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