Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date: Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012
“Play as usual,” the manager of the Japan champs from Tokyo, Japan, Little League, Yoichi Kubo, told his team before they took the field in their Little League World Series Championship game against the Southeast champs from Goodlettsville, Tenn., Little League.
Japan would certainly do as told, overpowering the Southeast with its dominant pitching and explosive offense, winning the Little League World Series title, 12-2, in five innings of play.
While the pitching and offense led the way, it is important to not let Kubo get
lost in the shuffle. The Japan team was managed by Kubo, who also managed the
2007 Japan team who fell to Southeast champs, Warner Robins, Ga., Little League,
3-2, on a walk-off home run to deny Kubo another title, after he had already won
one in 2001.
For Kubo, this was a redemption game after coming so close in 2007, and as luck would have it, he would play a team from the same region that beat him in his previous trip to the title game. While talking to him earlier in the tournament after practice, he said he had a well balanced team and he wanted a championship this time.
Japan player Noriatsu Osaka echoed his coach’s comments as well, saying the team would like to win the Little League World Series.
Japan would get there wish, with Osaka leading the way, notching three home runs and four RBIs in the Little League World Series Championship game. With Kotaro Kiyomiya doing his part on the mound, Osaka said he knew he had to do his part in the batter’s box.
“I would like to hit as much as I can,” he said after the game.
Kiyomiya said the team’s batting and pitching was able to win the game for them. Kiyomiya pitched four innings, allowing one run on one hit. Besides bringing in runs, Osaka also closed out the game for Japan, pitching the final inning, allowing one run on one hit as well, giving Japan the Little League World Series crown.
“This team is well balanced,” Kubo said after the game.
He said he felt this team was even more balanced, both hitting and pitching, than the teams he took to the title game in 2001 and 2007.
Since the pitching staff was so well balanced, he was able to rotate them at the World Series the same way he has all season.
“That is the main reason we could win,” he said.
Kubo said he felt there were other factors that allowed the Japan team to capture the title, such as the Southeast’s depleted pitching staff.
“They couldn’t have more pitching staff for this final,” Kubo said in the press conference after his team’s victory.
"That's a good team."-- Southeast Manager Joey Hale on Japan
Southeast manager Joey Hale would indeed be left with limited options going into the championship game, having used his ace Brock Myers, plus two other pitchers in their win over the West champions from Petaluma, Calif., Little League in the United States Championship game.
Hale said he knew his team was going to be drained after such a dramatic win in their previous game.
“I knew we would be flat today (Sunday),” he said.
Despite the loss, he was still complimentary toward the Japan team after the game.
“He threw some good pitches and they just hit him,” he said regarding how well Japan’s hitters hit his pitcher despite what he felt was a good pitching performance.
“That’s a good team,” he said.
By the end of this year’s tournament, Japan certainly has made that clear, with the continuous arsenal of arms they throw at teams led by Kiyomiya, Yuta Ishida, and Osaka, plus the types of hitters that the team has. When it’s all said and done, Japan certainly earned the right to be considered favorites to win the tournament.
After Japan defeated his team in the International Championship game, Luis Gonzalez, manager of the Latin America champs from Aguadulce, Panama, Little League, said Japan’s pitching was going to lead them to a Little League World Series title.
Looks like his prediction came true after all.