Game 25
International Semi-Final

9 vs. Asia 8
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
4:00PM ET

Schoop slugs Curacao into International Championship
Clutch hitting by Curacao shortstop gives Caribbean first win over Asia team in 4 years

By David Graham-Caso

Forget about history. Even though the Asia Regional Champions had defeated the Caribbean Regional Champions in every International Final since the Little League World Series expanded to its current 16-team format, the Pabao Little League from Willemstad, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles was not phased going into Wednesday’s International semifinal showdown against Chinese Taipei.

On the strength of the dominating right arm and lethal bat of five-foot-11 Carlos Pineda, Curacao in walk-off fashion broke its four-year losing streak against Asian teams.

Jonathon Schoop twice came through for his team when they needed him most, tying the game with a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth and winning it with a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh. With its 9-8 victory, Curacao advances to the International Championship game on Saturday afternoon.

“This is awesome,” said Curacao coach Michelangelo Celestina through interpreter Carlos Pagan. “This is awesome for us. In Curacao, it is our goal to beat the Asia team when we come to the Little League World Series.”

Pineda gave Curacao the early advantage in the bottom of the first. The 168-pound slugger hammered a 2-1 fastball to the base of the left-centerfield wall with two runners in scoring position. The double made the score 2-0.

Taiwan made up the difference in its next at bat. Chung Chen-Chia slammed a two-run double of his own with two-outs in the top of the second to even the score at 2-2. Taiwan took a one run lead in the next inning when Wang Wei-Chung knocked in Chen Hung-Ta with a double that hit the center field wall on the fly.

The “Pineda Show” continued in the bottom of the third. With two-outs the clean-up hitter sent a sharp grounder to third that should have been out number three, but the lengthy Pineda legged out the infield single to give his team some life. After advancing to second on a wild pitch, Pineda sprinted across the plate as Jurickson Profar beat out an infield single of his own.

Curacao regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. After Rigynöel Rondei led off the inning with a walk, Christopher Garia carved a triple into right, plating Rondei and giving Curacao a 4-3 advantage.

The one-run lead would not last for long. In the next inning, Chi-Hung sent a seeing-eye single beyond the reach of diving Curacao third baseman Profar that brought Wang Chun-Po in from second.

The next Taiwan run came in of a rare defensive mistake by Curacao. With one away and Taiwan threatening with runners at first and second, Pineda induced Liao Chun-Lin to ground into what should have been an inning-ending double play. Shortstop Jonathon Schoop cleanly fielded the grounder and flipped the ball to second baseman Sorick Liberia. Liberia hurried the throw and the ball sailed wide left of first baseman Dimitri Eugenia. The Liberia error allowed Chen-Chia to score.

After giving up the go-ahead run, Pineda allowed the flood gates to open. Pineda walked the next batter he faced and then Hung-Ta drove extended the lead by blasting a line drive home run to left field. Taiwan had a commanding 8-4 lead going into the bottom of the sixth.

Then came the Curacao sixth inning. Ten batters came to plate as the never-say-die Curacao squad scraped together a four-run inning that sent the game into extra frames. Charlton Martis got the rally started for Curacao with a bloop single to shallow right. After a strikeout, a walk and another Texas leaguer loaded the bases for Garia. Garia took an outside fastball to right to drive in one-run and chip into the Taiwan lead. With one-out still one the scoreboard and the bases full, Liberia took a fastball to the face to bring in another run. The ball left Liberia with a bloody nose and Curacao with only a two-run deficit to make up.

Schoop was the next Curacao batter to come to the plate. The five-foot-3 righty got his pitch, which he promptly sent into left, bringing in two runs and tying the score at 8-8.

“I have faith in God,” Schoop said through Pagan. “I can do anything in baseball with my faith.”

With the ultra dangerous Pineda due up next, Taiwan manager Cheng Ying-Chun opted to bring Lai Yi-Ming into the game.

Yi-Ming’s first order of business was to issue Pineda a free pass to the open first base (Schoop had advanced to second on a throw home after his single). Yi-Ming narrowly got out the jam, inducing a ground out and a pop fly to right to send the game into the seventh inning.

It was Schoop again in the seventh. Not only did he come in to pitch in relief and strike out the side in the top of the inning, but he delivered at the plate for the second consecutive inning. With the bases full and two outs, Schoop slapped a single to left, brining in Rondei and sending Curacao on to the International Championship.

“Once I hit the ball I knew that we were going to win the game,” Schoop said. “I raised my arms on my way to first base because I knew that we had won.”

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© 2004 Little League Baseball Incorporated