Japan’s a ‘Go’ for International Semifinals
Matsumoto Pitching and
Grand Slam Leads Kawaguchi City to a 7-2 victory over Curacao
By Brandon Miller
a trip to the International Semifinals on the line, Japan sent ace
Go Matsumoto to the mound to try and shut down the All-Stars from
And shut them down is exactly what he did.
In a dominant pitching performance by Matsumoto, Japan out-dueled
Curacao, 7-2, in front of 5,698 fans at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.
“I have a lot of respect for the Caribbean team,” said Japan manager
Shigeru Hidaka through interpreter Bill Lundy. “They have a great
baseball team. We knew that coming in and we’re very happy for our
The win improved Japan’s record at the Little League Baseball World
Series to 3-0 and earned the Asia Region Champions the number one
seed in Pool D. They will face the Transatlantic team from Saudi
Arabia in the International Semifinals on
Going into today’s game, manager Hidaka was a little nervous about
Matsumoto pitching since his last outing was July 23 against Taiwan
in the Asia regional tournament. Of course, that outing resulted in
a Matsumoto perfect game.
“It’s been a while since (Go) had to perform,” said manager Hidaka.
“Overall, I’m pleased with his pitching today. It’s nice to be where
En route to the win, Matsumoto fanned 12 batters and held Curacao to
only four hits while helping himself at the plate with a grand slam
and three runs scored.
“I was nervous having pitched only one game in the regional
(tournament) coming into this game” said Matsumoto.
“(Matsumoto) was nasty,” said Curacao manager Michelanelo Celestina.
“Very good curveball; good fastball; out of the zone. Nasty.”
After shaking off some rust in the first, issuing a one-out walk and
subsequent double to Sherman Lucras, Matsumoto struck out the next
two batters to retire the side and solidify his confidence.
“After throwing just a few more pitches (following the Lucras
double) my confidence grew and continued to grow,” said Matsumoto.
“I was very happy then throughout the rest of the first inning and
the rest of the game.”
The story of the tournament continues to be the power displayed by
Japan’s offense. With two more home runs today, Japan has now hit a
combined total of six home runs in three games.
Matsumoto’s grand slam came in the top of the sixth on a shot to
center that glanced off the glove of the centerfielder to clear the
fence. The scoring came after a Curacao solo home run by Haime
Ingemar in the bottom of the fifth had closed the Japan lead to 3-1.
“As soon as I hit it, I thought it was a home run,” said Matsumoto.
“And then, in the air, it started to come down and I started
thinking about how they moved the fence back, and I got a little
nervous whether it was going to go over or not. I was very excited
when it did fall on the other side of the fence.”
Seigo Yada continued his offensive tear in the leadoff position for
Japan going 1-for-3 with a solo home run. The line drive homer came in
the third with Japan leading, 1-0.
“It was very good timing on hitting that home run,” said manager
Hidaka. “It was a very important run to get at that point in the
“I’ve had three home runs in three games, and I hope to have a home
run in each game following,” said Yada.
Yada’s statistics for the tournament are now 5-for-11 with three RBI
and five runs scored.
Having advanced to the International semifinals, Matsumoto says it’s
time to get serious.
“We’ve got to really start cracking down. We have to start getting
serious as a team as a whole. I’m going to do my part from here on
out and really try to focus.”
For Curacao, their early exit is a surprise.
“The team didn’t have the bats today,” said manager Celestina. “Our
3-4-5-6 hitters didn’t hit to put us in the game.”
The expectations were high for Pabao Little League who returned five
players from last year’s World Series runner-up team.
“(Our team) was a good team,” said manager Celestina. “Sometimes you
have to be lucky too. The kids are down right now.”
In addition to last year’s runner-up finish, Curacao has been to the
International Semifinals for five consecutive years coming into
2006, and won the Little League Baseball World Series in 2004 with
this year’s manager, Celestina, a coach on the team.
© 2006, Little League Baseball
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