Curacao Rallies In Last At-Bat For Important Win Over Japan
Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Sunday, August 23, 2009, 8:00pm ET
Some days the numbers paint a picture. On Sunday night, Salvador Dali picked
up the palette.
Pabao Little League (PLL) and Chiba City Little League (CCLL) thrilled a crowd of 11,800 at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, in a game that had a little bit of everything. The two teams combined to hit three home runs, commit nine errors, throw seven wild pitches, and steal five bases, including a key steal of home plate. Japan Region Champion Chiba City took the lead four times, and Caribbean Region Champion Pabao, from Willemstad, Curacao in the Netherland Antilles, rallied to tie each time.
In the bottom of the sixth, the final inning, PLL’s Jayson Libert bunted and was thrown out at first base. But, while that play was being made, teammate Richendly Bicentini, who was on third base, made a mad dash toward home plate barely beating the throw from first base and the tag of CCLL catcher Kaito Tsuneizumi with the winning run.
“We just play baseball, pure, basic style ball,” Pabao manager Vernon Isabella said. “When a situation presents itself, we try and bunt the ball, and the pitcher will not expect you to come with a bunt.”
Chiba City manager Hirofumi Oda said his team was playing close for the bunt with the second baseman covering first, but substitute first baseman Hidaka Taisei was just a step short from fielding the bunt.
Pabao managed to take the lead only once, and that was at the most important time. They left the field jumping, dancing, and cheering. Chiba City left broken-hearted in an important game in Pool C on the international side of the bracket at the World Series.
“In Japanese competition, my team didn’t lose at all,” Oda said. “Tonight is their first time to lose. They were really shocked.”
Oda’s team scored five times on one hit to start the game in the top of the first inning, forcing Pabao to put in lefty Edmond Americaan at pitcher after Diorson Lourens started the game and struggled.
As they would all night, the PLL team picked up their bats and responded in the same inning. Claycandy Hariquez stroked a two-run single and Bicentini came up to bat. He clobbered a pitch over the center field fence, halfway up the hill, for a two-run homer that sent the hometown section of fans into a frenzy.
Chiba City silenced the crowd with two more runs in the second, but PLL counterpunched with three runs of their own to tie the score when Hariquez knocked in two runs with the other run scoring on a wild pitch by CCLL’s starting pitcher Kouki Kimura.
In the fouth inning, Chiba City took the lead on a towering two-run home run by Motoki Takashima. Pabao’s Shair Lacrus shot back with his own solo shot in the bottom of the inning, and then Hariquez did the unthinkable.
Following Bicentini’s ground out, Hariquez lowered his head and darted home when the catcher was throwing the ball back to the pitcher. He slid on both knees past the plate reaching back and grazing the plate with his left hand beating the catcher’s tag by centimeters, tying the game at nine-all.
Japan rebounded with a Toshinori Wakai RBI double in the fifth, but Americaan responded with a two-out RBI triple to even the score at 10.
Chiba City’s Naoto Oguru put CCLL back in front in the top of the sixth on a throwing error, but Bicentini knocked in PLL’s Mike Junters to even the score for a fourth time in the bottom of the frame setting up the heroics of Bicentini with the decisive run that KO’d Chiba City.
Afterward, Isabella could finally breathe a sigh of relief after possibly the most stressful game of his coaching career.
“The tension was very high, up and down, and up and down, and up and down,” the manager said. “We were always chasing behind Japan, but due to the fact that we were the home team, we could finish the game.”
The Chiba City team will have to come right back at 2 p.m. Monday for a key game in their pool against Latin America. The squad from Curacao will also play Monday in a 6 p.m. game against the Arabian American Little League from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.