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Sixth Inning Home Run Sends Japan to International Championship
By Colin Brown
Game Attendance: 24,848
A home run in the sixth inning propelled Musashi Fuchu Little League from Tokyo, Japan, over Liga Municipal de Tijuana Little League from Baja California, Mexico, as Japan won the Little League Baseball® World Series International Championship, 3-2.
24,848 fans piled into Lamade Stadium and onto the outfield Hill in South Williamsport, Pa., on Saturday afternoon to witness the late-inning heroics. Japan’s Takuma Gomi hit the game-winner, a high fly ball over the right-center field wall, in the top of the sixth inning. The solo-shot broke the tie and gave Japan a 3-2 lead.
“I wasn’t happy (with) the fact that I hit the home run, but that I was able to add to the team’s win,” Gomi proclaimed via team interpreter Kalani Taguchi.
Just minutes before Gomi’s home run, Japan was in a jam as Mexico was threatening to break a 2-2 tie. With zero outs and runners on first and second, Mexico was in good position to take the lead. Japan made a crucial decision to change pitchers and put Keita Saito on the mound. Saito recorded three straight outs, including two strikeouts.
“I was thinking that I was going to somehow get out of the jam that we were in,” Saito answered when asked about dealing with the immense pressure from Mexico.
The fifth inning was eerily similar to the second, when Mexico loaded the bases with zero outs and failed to score any runs. Japan pitcher Kensuke Tsuchida took the mound in relief of pitcher Seiya Nishino and recorded three straight outs to get his team out of a trouble.
“Changing pitchers is something I rely on, being a seasoned manager—being able to read the kids’ faces or seeing how they feel,” manager Masumi Omae said.
For both sides, managing their pitchers was a key to the game. Combined, the teams totaled five runs on 11 hits, so defense was of the essence.
Japan jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Shunpei Takagi hit a ground ball up the middle, which scored Shou Miyao from second base. Takagi finished two-for-three with one RBI and Miyao finished one-for-one and scored two runs.
Japan’s aggressive base running in the third inning allowed them to add their second run. Miyao got on base by beating the throw to first, progressed base-by-base, and advanced home on a passed ball.
Mexico answered Japan’s second run with two of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Ramon Mendoza hit a line drive, two-run home run to center field, which tied the game, 2-2.
With the win, Japan advanced to the World Series Championship game on Sunday, Aug. 25, at 3:00 p.m. at Lamade Stadium. Japan will look to defend their title as their region won the 2012 Championship, 14-2, over Southeast Region.
“It’s sad to think that this is the last game that I’ll be playing with these guys,” Takagi said. “I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that we win the championship and become world champions.”
Mexico will play in the Consolation Third Place game against New England on Sunday, Aug. 25, at 11:00 a.m. Manager Francisco Fimbres is confident that his team will come to play.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun tomorrow, and we’re going to come out and win it.”