Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Monday, August 22, 2011, 2:00pm ET
What historically would have, what should have, gone down as the upset of the century – Canada ousting powerhouse Chinese Taipei (formerly Taiwan) from the 2011 Little League Baseball World Series with a 5-3 victory – seemed like just another game, just another win Monday afternoon at Volunteer Stadium.
For Canada, who is finally settling in to all the cameras, the crowds, the glitz and the glamour, it was just another win that the team needed to keep its stay here in Williamsport alive. The Langley Little Leaguers and their coaches are hoping there are many more to come, too.
“We struggled a lot early in the tournament in certain innings, and we had another big inning we gave up today, but we managed to fight through it,” said Canada coach Jason Andrews. “This win is tremendous to us. We have two wins in this tournament, which for Canada is a lot. This win means a lot.”
In fact, being 2-1 is quite a feat for a country that has been part of this tournament now 52 times in total – including the last 46 straight – without ever having won a championship and having appeared in the title game just once – in 1965. But arguably, the more significant number is one. Monday’s 5-3 victory is the first and only time a team from Canada has defeated Chinese Taipei in 17 all-time meetings – which also happens to be the number of times Chinese Taipei has won a Little League Baseball World Series title.
“The kids are getting less nervous,” said Andrews. “I’m not panicking as much as the coach, and that is reflecting on them too.”
“At the start [of the tournament], we were thinking all about the crowds,” echoed Ian Burns. “We’re starting to be able to focus more on the game now.”
And that was evident from the beginning Monday afternoon. Canada landed a 2-0 early lead in the first thanks to back-to-back hits followed by consecutive wild pitch and passed ball mishaps. Asia-Pacific spotted the Langley Little Leaguers a third run an inning later, putting Connor McCreath on to lead off the frame and allow nine-hole hitter Trevor Miller and Burns to plate the run with big two-out knocks for a 3-0 advantage.
But despite touching Canadian pitcher Yi An Pan consistently – the Asia-Pacific reps would get nine hits to their opponents’ six – Chinese Taipei wouldn’t complete a trip around the bases until the third. The Asia-Pacific champs batted through the order and got a trio of runs off five hits, aided by a pair of wild pitches and a passed ball to tie up the elimination contest at 3-3 entering the fourth.
“Our bad inning, [when] we gave up three runs, I was very nervous,” said Pan. “[The Chinese Taipei players are] really good hitters, so I tried to hit outside corners.”
But the tie wouldn’t last long. A leadoff hit from McCreath in the fourth would result in the go-ahead run, thanks to a sac bunt, Chinese Taipei error and passed ball.
The Asia-Pacific champs threatened in the bottom half of the fifth in a big way, as Chi-Ling Hsu loomed at third with two out. But in an effort to knot the score on a passed ball, Hsu made the final out at the plate as Burns pitched the runaway ball to Pan to apply the tag just in time, preserving Canada’s 4-3 edge.
Pan would help himself out again in the top of the sixth, tacking on an insurance run with a solo leadoff shot to straightaway centerfield, ensuring Canada’s continued presence at the 2011 Little League Baseball World Series with a 5-3 victory.
The game marks the end of the journey for Chinese Taipei, but sends Canada through to the International Semifinal of the elimination bracket.
“It’s a tough road ahead,” said Andrews. “[If there is] any chance for us to move on, we have to be perfect. Our best game has to come now, and we have to have a couple of best games in a row to stay here.”
Langley Little League will take on the winner of Monday’s 6 p.m. matchup between Japan and Saudi Arabia Tuesday at 4 p.m.