Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Day, August 25, 2011, 4:00pm ET
Japan used three left-field long balls and stifled a late-game flurry from Venezuela hitters to take a 9-6 win Thursday afternoon, advancing to Saturday’s International Championship Game for a rematch against still-undefeated Mexico.
In the game that pitted two traditional powerhouses against one another, it was Japan who got the offense going, and it never looked back.
After second baseman Ken Igeta’s RBI double in the third inning opened the scoring, first baseman Yoshiki Suzuki drove the next pitch over the left field wall to give Japan a 3-0 lead.
Pitcher Kazuto Takakura added a trio of insurance runs in a big spot in the next frame, launching a three-run homer to left to mark the first long ball of his little league career and give his side a 6-0 advantage.
Suzuki followed up with his second home run of the day in the fifth, extending Japan’s lead to 7-0.
“I was thinking ‘just try to hit it to center,’” Suzuki said through interpreter Kotaro Omori. “They were fastballs.”
After opening up a comfortable 8-0 lead, Venezuela mounted a comeback.
Latin America loaded the bases in the fifth, and Carlos Narvaez’s two-RBI single was followed with Elio (Carlos’ cousin) Narvaez’s three-run home run to bring the score to 8-5.
Japan added a run in the sixth, and brought in closer Gaishi Iguchi to shut the door on Venezuela.
“[Iguchi] has really good guts,” said manager Akihiro Suzuki. “He’s very strong in that situation.”
Iguchi gave up two singles to bring the tying run to the plate, but he struck out the final two batters.
Japan will advance to play Mexico on Saturday in the International Championship. Mexico won the first game between the two, 3-2, in extra innings.
“We are really looking forward to having that game with them,” said manager Suzuki. “Last time we lost, but we’ll do our best.”