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A three-run fifth inning gave Musashi Fuchu Little League of Tokyo, Japan, their first lead of the game and a victory over Liga Municipal de Tijuana Little League from Baja California, Mexico, 5-2, at Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa., Wednesday afternoon at the Little League Baseball® World Series.
With the score tied at two, and with an 0-2 count, Kazuki Ishida turned things around in the fifth with a home run to center field to give Japan a 3-2 lead.
“When I hit it I knew that it was a home run, so I was really happy about that,” Ishida said via team interpreter Kalani Taguchi.
Kouyou Mizushima added to the lead when he slapped a groundball to left field, which scored Shou Miyao. Next up, Kyousuke Kobayashi, gave Japan their fifth and final run with a double off of the left-center field wall, scoring Mizushima. Mizushima finished the game two-for-two, scored two runs, and recorded one RBI.
“I’ve always been the first batter up so I’ve had the mindset of getting on base and making sure that I can get (other) batters up, which leads to scoring,” Mizushima said.
Mexico was out to an early lead, but was never able to put the game away, as Japan continued to answer whenever Mexico scored.
Mexico put one run on the board in the top of the second. Jorge Rodriguez cranked an opposite-field double down the left-field line, which scored Jorge Romero from first base.
Japan answered in the bottom half of the inning. Mizushima led off the inning as he hustled to second base on a hit to right field. Ryusei Hirooka hit a chopper up the middle that scored Mizushima and tied the game, 1-1.
Mexico’s bats caught a spark in the third inning when Brandon Montes sent the second pitch he saw over the left-center field wall to give his team a 2-1 lead. Mexico’s next two batters each reached base, but Mexico left them stranded with two strikeouts at the end of the inning.
Japan pulled even, 2-2, in the fourth inning with a deep home run over the World Series sign in right-center field by Seiya Nishino.
Japan’s pitching played a significant role in silencing Mexico’s bats, which had scored 25 runs on 24 hits in their first two games.
“We had a different strategy in pitchers that we thought would be able to throw off-speed pitches instead of straight fastballs,” Japan manager Masumi Omae said.
Ishida pitched the first three innings for Japan, allowed two runs on four hits, and recorded four strikeouts. Ryutarro Takeo pitched the final three innings, allowed only one hit, and struck out four Mexican batters.
“They handle their pitching very well—they paint corners and pitch low,” said Mexico manager Francisco Fimbres via team interpreter Sergio Guzman. “They have a lot of fast breaking balls and they’re very (good) pitchers.”
Japan advances to the International Championship, which will be played on Saturday, Aug. 24 at 12:30 p.m. Mexico has one more chance to meet Japan on Saturday, but first they have a date with Latin America in the International semi-final, which will be played at Lamade Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 22 at 4 p.m.
Fimbres joked about how he will handle his team following today’s loss in preparation for tomorrow’s game.
“I might take them to get some Mexican burritos—that will cheer them up—maybe that’s what they’re missing.”