Small Ball, Big Win
Chinese Taipei relies on speed, discipline to reach International final
Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 6:00pm ET
On a cool evening at Volunteer Stadium, the disciplined, aggressive approach of a team from Asia trumped a talented Central American squad to reach the International finals of the 2010 Little League Baseball World Series.
No, it wasn’t a replay of Japan’s victory against Mexico on Tuesday night, but it sure felt similar. Chinese Taipei completed its sweep through Pool D on Wednesday night, defeating Panama 5-1. The Asia-Pacific champions will meet Japan on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Chinese Taipei initially struggled against Irving Indunis, who threw a complete game for Panama. Manager Tung-Yu Ho said Indunis’s fastball and sharp breaking ball kept his team off balance. So Chinese Taipei switched its approach at the plate, looking to hit the ball the other way and play small ball.
“With this team, if you don’t get the big hit, then you bunt,” Ho said through interpreter Ming-Huang Ye.
With the game tied at one going into the fifth inning, Chinese Taipei put its new strategy to use. After a leadoff walk, pinch hitter Wei-Chung Chen dropped a perfect bunt and beat out the throw. Two batters later, the bases were loaded for Shao-Fei Huang.
Huang sent the hardest hit of the game into right center field and zipped around the bases for a three-run triple making the score 4-1. Instead of going the opposite way like his teammates, Huang saw Panama’s defense had a hole in right field and made the adjustment.
“I saw the whole infield and outfield were on the left side,” he said. “I tried to pull the ball.”
Huang scored Chinese Taipei’s fifth run on a wild pitch later in the inning. The five runs were the fewest for the Asia-Pacific champions since defeating Guam 3-0 in the regional semifinals. Since the beginning of the regional tournament, Chinese Taipei has outscored its competition 92-1.
Panama wasn’t helped by some defensive miscues in the fifth inning. The Latin American champions weren’t crisp on their bunt defenses, costing them runs. Manager Cristobal Salerno said he was expecting bunts, but the team didn’t execute.
“There was some lack of communication,” he said. “I had spoken to them about that because [Chinese Taipei] is fast and we knew they would eventually bunt.”
Panama became the first team to score on Chinese Taipei in the World Series in the first inning. Luis Tello drew a leadoff walk and scored all the way from first base on Javier Garcia’s double.
Salerno moved Garcia down in the order hoping to spark his lineup. Salerno said he was happy with the results from Garcia.
“He drove in the first run of the game and hit the last ball hard,” he said. “They’re a good defensive team and made the play with the bases loaded.”
But it will be Chinese Taipei advancing to the International final, for the second time in as many years. Last year, the Asia-Pacific champions defeated Mexico before losing to Chula Vista, Calif., in the World Series Championship Game.
Ho said facing Indunis on Wednesday will help his team against Japan, because he expects to face a similar pitcher.
“We’ve got some experience now,” he said. “I believe it will be a low-scoring game against Japan.”