Japan in Familiar Form
In latest Curacao-Japan showdown, six-run second helps Japan advance to International Championship Game with 11-4 win
By Dustin Picciolo
It was a familiar sight in the first International semi-final game Wednesday at the Little League Baseball World series.
Japan and Curacao faced one another in single-elimination play for the seventh time in eight years since the tournament expanded to 16 teams in 2001.
Japan came into the game 4-2 against their friendly rivals in that time. The Edogawa Minami All-Stars made sure they improved that record with a convincing 11-4 victory at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in front of 8,558.
Japan advances to Saturday’s International Championship Game for the fourth time since 2001. Japan will take on the winner of the second International semi-final matchup between Mexico (3-0) and Venezuela (2-1), which will be held Thursday afternoon.
Down 3-1 in the second inning after a three-run homer by Curacao’s Tivon Faneyte, Japan struck back by sending 11 batters to the plate, highlighted by a pair of two three-run blasts of their own, courtesy of Ryohji Kimura and Takumi Ozeki.
Ozeki said of his home run, “I hit the outside pitch and it flew out of the field.”
Japan stayed hot in the third when Kimura doubled to center field. He would advance to third via a wild pitch and score on a passed ball, increasing the lead to 8-3.
Kimura had changed his batting stance during morning practice, and went 2-for-3 with a double and a home run.
“I asked the manager and coaches for advice and then hit the home run,” Kimura said. “I was happy.”
It looked to be a close game early on as Japan scored one in the top of the first and Curacao scored three in the bottom half on Faneyte’s three-run homer.
Curacao’s manager Vernon Isabella said of the Faneyte blast, “It was good because it put us ahead, but I wanted more.”
Japan would add three runs in the sixth to make it 11-3, and Curacao’s Juremi Profar would hit a solo shot over the left field fence in the bottom half to close out the scoring.
Curacao’s players showed great sportsmanship keeping their heads high despite the outcome of the game.
“Against Japan, you have to keep batting in runs,” Isabella said.
Curacao had a great run in South Williamsport, going 2-1 in pool play and advancing to the International semifinals, but fell short in their quest for a championship.
When asked if the players and coaches had fun in South Williamsport, Isabella said, “Yes, as usual as always, but we wish we were playing on Saturday.”
Japan will have two days off before their next bout on Saturday against either Mexico or Venezuela, two good offensive teams.
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