Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Saturday, August 27, 2011, 12:00pm ET
With a 5-2 victory over Mexico — the team that handed Hamamatsu Minami Little League its only Series loss a mere six days ago — Japan has done it again. Sunday afternoon, for the second year in a row and 10th time overall, Japan will play for the Little League Baseball World Series Championship.
After a quiet first two innings, the squad from Hamamatsu Minami Little League used the third and fourth innings to pounce on Mexico pitcher Jorge Jacobo. Japan sent 14 batters to the plate en route a 4-0 advantage, all they would need to get the win.
Mexico would get one back in the bottom of the fourth, but with both teams touching the plate once more in the fifth, Japan walked away with a championship berth.
“The last game [against Mexico] we didn’t play our best,” said Japanese manager Akihiro Suzuki through interpreter Kotaro Omori. “Mexico is a good team but this time we did better with teamwork.”
The Mexico defense — a staple of success throughout the tournament — did not help its team’s case Saturday afternoon, and Japan, in typical fashion, capitalized on nearly every opportunity.
“We wanted to make as few mistakes as possible,” said Seguro Social Little League manager Francisco Picos through interpreter Sergio Guzman. “That’s what we talked about in practice — if we did make mistakes, Japan would jump on us.”
Japanese pitcher Yoshiki Suzuki needed the help of his defense, as well, and he got it. Despite scoring only two runs, Mexico had runners on base and in scoring position often throughout the affair.
Suzuki went the distance, pitching all six innings and giving up seven hits. He also struck out seven.
“At the end of the game I was really tired,” he said.
Suzuki and his teammates better rest up. The World Series Championship Game has been moved up to noon on Sunday afternoon, in response to the impending rain from Hurricane Irene.
Mexico, on the other hand, fell just short yet again. Saturday’s loss marked the third time in four years in which the Mexico representatives have advanced as far as the International Championship without winning it all.
But Picos couldn’t deny the invaluable lessons the past 10 days had taught both him and his players.
“Fight for your dream,” he said. “Whatever that is, always keep dreaming. That is what this experience has taught me.”
Toward the very end of his final press conference, Picos took the time to thank those to whom he felt he owed the most gratitude — his 14 players.
Or, as he called them, his warriors.
“I have nothing to say other than I’m really proud, and I could never have done it without them.”