Japan capitalizes on mistakes, defeats Puerto Rico
Japan just one win away from International final
Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Sunday, August 22, 2010, 6:00pm ET
The disciplined, aggressive approach expected out of Japanese teams in the Little League World Series proved to be too much for Puerto Rico on Sunday night.
Beginning in the first inning Japan put pressure on Puerto Rico, taking advantage of a walk, a triple, a hit batsman, an error and a bunt to take the wind out of the Caribbean champion’s sails. Japan rode the wave to a 7-2 victory, dropping Puerto Rico into the Pool C losers’ bracket.
Puerto Rico outhit the Japanese 6-4, and manager Shingo Ariyasu acknowledged the Caribbean champions are better hitters. But the disciplined approach of Japan was enough to win.
“We wanted to capitalize on the mistakes they made,” he said through interpreter Brian Thompson.
Puerto Rico made a few mistakes, including a costly error in the first inning. With runners on first and third, shortstop Yomar Valentin fielded a groundball and flipped the ball to second to try and start a double play. But Oscar Figueroa couldn’t handle the throw, allowing the runner to advance to third and a run to score.
Manager Jose Valentin said he would have preferred his grandson, Yomar, get the sure out at first base.
“That cost us runs,” he said through interpreter Antonio Gonzalez.
The aggressive base running Japan uses has become second nature to the players. Very few opportunities to take an extra base get away from the team.
“Everyone is always keeping in mind to advance to the next base,” left fielder Teruma Nagata said.
Japan added four more runs in the second inning, all coming with two outs. Nagata had a key two-run single that removed much of the doubt from the game. He said he wasn’t trying to do anything special when he came to the plate.
“When I went up to bat, I just wanted to make contact with the ball and run as fast as I could to first,” Nagata said.
Trailing 7-0, Puerto Rico mounted a comeback in the bottom of the second. Cousins Yomar and Victor Valentin both drove in a run. Ariyasu removed starter Ryo Motegi, bringing in Ryusuke Ikeda.
Ikeda (1-0) shut down Puerto Rico, pitching 3 2/3 scoreless innings for the victory. He struck out seven and retired six batters in a row at one point.
Jose Valentin said Ikeda’s pitching was the difference in the game, his three-quarters delivery making it difficult to hit against. Puerto Rico stranded eight runners, all in the first five innings.