Game 27: Asia-Pacific 5 vs. Caribbean 2

Death by Chocolate

Author: Gabe Hiatt

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date/Time: Thursday, August 27, 2009, 4:00pm ET

For the first time since 1996, neither a team from Japan nor a team from the Caribbean Region will be vying for an International Championship and a consequent Little League World Series Championship berth. Chinese Taipei’s Kuei-Shan Little League made sure of that with Thursday’s 5-2 defeat of Curacao’s Pabao Little League at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

With the victory, Kuei-Shan earned a spot in the International Championship Game against the Mexico Region Champions on Saturday. The Asia-Pacific all-stars are hoping to party like it’s 1996, when a Chinese Taipei team last took the Little League World Series title. Defeating Curacao was the first lofty step toward that goal.

“I was expecting it to be a tight game, especially since the Caribbean team has good speed and very good power swinging as well,” Keui-Shan manager Cheng Ta Lee said.

The first half of the game proved to be tight when both teams failed to post a run in the opening three innings, but the second half proved Kuei-Shan’s superiority. Lee’s team easily ran through the Curacao all-stars, allowing only two meaningless runs in the final inning of play.

Lefthander Chin Ou cut through the Pabao lineup with a wicked curveball and varying pitch speeds, keeping Curacao swinging early all night. He had a no-hit bid working into the sixth inning.

“Two days ago we already decided that Chin Ou would face the Caribbean because he has a very good breaking ball, and he mixes it up with a pretty good fastball,” Lee said.

Curacao threatened to come back in the bottom of the fifth when, with only one out, the Carribbean champs had a man on base with the top of the order slated to come up. But Keui-Shan turned a 6-4-3 double play to escape the inning without allowing any runs to Pabao.

“It was a rally killer,” Isabella said. The manager acknowledged Ou’s dominating performance on the mound as well. “His curveball was the difference in the game.”

Whenever Ou got tired, his coaches would feed him some M&M chocolates to try and calm him down and make him happy.

“During the game, the kids started to think it was lucky chocolate, so everybody just had some,” Lee said.

Tang Fu Cheng must have eaten his chocolates because he scored two runs, including one on a solo shot in the sixth to make it 5-0. Leadoff man Hung Yuan Lin also had a good night, locking down the infield with his play at shortstop and tallying two hits and an RBI in three at-bats.

Still, Lee wants more out of his offense if the team is going to be competitive in its rematch with Mexico Saturday in the International Championship. Keui-Shan lost, 3-2, when the teams first met on Tuesday in the final game of Pool D play.

“The batting still isn’t doing a good job,” Lee said. “We’ll give the sign for bunting or hit-and-run and the players won’t go. So that’s something we’ll practice and hopefully improve on in the next game.”

The Kuei-Shan Little Leaguers know they’ll likely see Mexico pitcher Marcelo Martinez again. In Tuesday’s game, Martinez struck out 12 Chinese Taipei batters in 4.2 innings of no-hit ball.

“Mostly Martinez has a great breaking ball and a great fastball, especially working them into the strike zone,” Lee said. “I don’t think we’ll be worse than the last game.”

Saturday’s International Championship Game starts at noon at Lamade Stadium.