Another Solid Performance From Japan Overwhelms Canada
By Dan Ryan
Yesterday, Ryosuke Moriuchi almost pitched a no-hitter for Japan against Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Today, it was more of the same as a trio of Japanese pitchers struck out nine Canadian batters en route to a 9-3 victory at Volunteer Stadium.
Despite his 4.1 innings of one-run ball, Japanese starting pitcher Takumi Ozeki felt that he didn’t pitch well enough.
“Today was actually one of the worst outings I have ever had,” Ozeki said. “In Japan the atmosphere is very different and I don’t think I was ready to play in front of so many people.”
Even Japan Manager Shingo Ariyasu felt his team could have done better: “I saw better pitching when we were in Japan,” Ariyasu said. “I expected him to pitch much better.”
However Ozeki and Ariyasu feel, the fact is that their team is now 2-0 and in first place in Pool D play after Ozeki threw 52 strikes over 85 pitches (61 percent) with eight strikeouts.
Coming into the fourth inning the game was still close with Japan leading 2-0. But Yukata Takeshita gave Japan some cushion with the first video-reviewed home run in Little League World Series history.
Takeshita’s blast was long enough, but was questionable as to which side of the left foul pole it went by. After the quick replay, the home run stood and Takeshita rounded the bases.
With Japan ahead 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Canada came as close as any team can to a comeback. With two outs and the bases loaded, leadoff hitter Stuart McDonald lined a comebacker towards Ozeki. The pitcher was quick enough to pull his glove up to end what would be Canada’s best chance at keeping pace with Japan.
“I give my kids a lot of credit for never getting down,” Canadian manager Jay Bouchey said. “Even after the fourth I could hear the kids singing Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ in the dugout. I had to bite my cheeks not to laugh.”
When the fifth inning started, Japan ran away with the game with some help from a few Canadian errors. Many of the balls put in play by Japan were in the infield, but Canada couldn’t capitalize as one bobble and two overthrows led to four runs, three of which were unearned.
At this point Ozeki was off the mound for Japan, but he still gave his team a boost as he hit a two-run homer in the sixth. Canada gave one last push in the bottom of the sixth with Conner Kenwood’s two-out, two-run single, but it proved to be too little too late.
“Maybe it was because we were on the road for so long,” Jay Bouchey said. “We made some uncharacteristic mistakes in both games. But the kids were still just tickled to be here.”
For Japan the next test comes in the form of a Venezuela team that has been impressive so far. “Venezuela has players with very high potential,” Ariyasu said. “We have to play at our best no matter what the cost.”
The team representing Japan is from Edogawa Minami Little League in Tokyo, Japan and the team representing Canada is from White Rock South Surrey Little League in White Rock, British Colombia.
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