|Editor’s note: Complete scores from all the games can be found here at http://www.littleleague.org/series/2006divisions/llbb/series.htm|
Georgia Wins Little League Title
United States Champs Pocket Win Over Japan in World Series Finale
By Mark Rogoff
The Columbus (Ga.) Northern Little League All-Stars spent all day on a rainy Sunday wondering what it would be like to play in the championship game of the Little League Baseball World Series. They spent morning, afternoon and night wondering how they would fare against the flame-throwing Go Matsumoto of the Kawaguchi City, Japan All-Stars … or not.
“It was exciting because we get to skip school,” said Georgia ace Kyle Carter, whose classes started Monday.
An overcast sky was all that remained after Sunday’s relentless rain pounded the Susquehanna River Valley and delayed the World Series title game to Monday. Before a small but intimate crowd of 4,725 at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, Georgia took home the gold in the 60th Little League Baseball World Series Championship Game, defeating Japan, 2-1, behind Carter’s complete-game three-hitter and Cody Walker’s third-inning two-run homer.
Coupled with Hawaii’s 7-6 win over Curacao in last year’s title game, a United States team has won back-to-back titles on the field for the first time since 1982 and 1983, when teams from Kirkland, Wash., and Marietta, Ga., brought home the championships. Teams from Long Beach, Calif., won consecutive titles in 1992-93, however, the 1992 championship came courtesy of a 6-0 forfeit win against a team from the Philippines.
The Marietta team was the first and only other team from Georgia to reach the World Series.
“That is pretty awesome,” said Georgia manager Randy Morris. “(Georgia) has been here twice and won it. Maybe we need to try this more.
“There is great baseball all over the world as we saw here,” added Morris. “That team, they’re as good as we are, probably. Either team could have won that game.”
Closing it out wasn’t easy for the United States Champions representing the Southeast Region. Carter issued a lead-off walk to Kohsuke Murata to start the sixth inning. Then, in a battle of perhaps the tournament’s two best players, the lefty struck out Matsumoto on a high fastball.
“I knew he was the best hitter on the team, but I knew I could get him out,” said Carter. After fanned clean-up hitter Naruto Fukuyama on another high fastball to pull within one out of the championship, Carter proceeded to hit Ryota Koike in the arm with a fastball.
That brought up Ryoya Sato, who on an 0-1 pitch, grounded to second baseman Josh Lester, who tagged out Koike between first and second base for the clinching out.
“I knew I could either throw to first or tag the guy, and I just tagged the guy because he was closer,” Lester said.
“I had a shot of adrenaline running through to my toes, but I had to settle down and throw the ball,” added Carter, who is the first pitcher to post four wins in a Little League World Series. “I knew that I was going to try to hold them to one run. I knew that we could get more, but I knew in the back of my heart that two would be enough.”
Carter retired the side in order in the fourth and fifth, striking out all three hitters he faced in the fifth. He fanned 11 overall.
Japan had jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Matsumoto’s RBI single in the third, but Georgia came right back in the bottom half of the inning. Carter recorded the first hit of the game off Japan’s ace, bouncing a one-out single into right field. After Carter advanced to second on a wild pitch, Josh Lester lined a single to centerfield. On the base hit, Carter hustled around third base, but was cut down by a perfect Seigo Yada throw and a perfect block of the plate by the catcher Koike.
That set the stage for Walker, who drove the first pitch he saw over the wall in right field to erase the 1-0 deficit.
“Before our game at practice I didn’t hit good,” Walker said. “I was out in the outfield (shagging), and Kyle came up to me and said he needed me. So when I got up there, I just focused and hit the ball.
“It was great to have the two RBI of the game, but I wasn’t thinking about that. I was just thinking about getting through the game and winning.”
Japan manager Shigeru Hidaka said the home run did not shake his team.
“(The home run) didn’t affect us,” he said through interpreter Bill Lundy. “At that point, we still thought that we were a team that could not lose.”
The third was really the only bad inning for Matsumoto, who didn’t allow a hit in his other four innings of work. He did issue a pair of walks in the first, but both runners were stranded when Patrick Stallings struck out to end the inning.
Matsumoto, who struck out nine, gave himself and his team a 1-0 lead in the third with his two-out single that brought home Seigo Yada. Yada had lined a one-out single to center, and went to second on pinch-hitter Yusuke Inuzuka’s ground out. That set the table for Matsumoto, who chopped a high grounder into centerfield.
“Me and him are good friends,” Carter said of Matsumoto. “We communicate the best we can. I told him to go to the game room [after the game], and that we’ll all play ping-pong. It will be me and him first.”
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