Game 13
Caribbean 0 vs. Asia 9

Sunday, August 21, 2005
7:00PM ET
Volunteer Stadium

Lucky No. 13
Japan’s ace Yusuke Taira leads Chiba City Little League to a 9-0 victory over defending Little League Baseball World Series Champion Curacao

By Allie Weinberger

Six innings, 21 batters and 13 strikeouts after Yusuke Taira first took the mound in Japan’s 9-0 romp of the 2004 Little League champs, the Chiba City ace can’t possibly consider the number 13 unlucky.

In front of 4,750 at Volunteer Stadium Sunday night, Taira tossed a shutout, allowing just a trio of hits and going 1-for-2 with two walks and home run to bring his team’s record up to 2-0 heading into the last game of pool play.

“I had really good control of my curveball today,” said Taira through translator Bill Lundy. “I’m glad that I was able to throw my fastball through the end of the game.”

But Curacao wasn’t so lucky. A barrage of Japan runs and Curacao wild pitches was waiting on deck.

With two down in the top of the sixth, Curacao trailed the All-Stars from Japan 5-0. Reliever Curacao Christopher Garcia (who entered the game one out into the first inning) put runners on at first and second with back-to-back walks. Batting in the three-hole, Kisho Watanabe loaded the bases with an infield hit.

A pitch from Garcia got past catcher Willie Rifaela and allowed all three runners to advance. Taira scored easily, making it 6-0.

With two runners still in scoring position, shortstop Yuki Mizuma stepped to the plate. Mizuma liked what the Caribbean hurler had to offer and took it deep over the center field fence for a three-run shot. The five-foot-seven 13-year-old pumped his fist all the way around the bases.

Garcia left the game with one out remaining, and Curacao skipper Vernon Isabella called on first baseman Naeem Lourens to toe the rubber and finish out the sixth. Lourens got the defending champs out of trouble when he struck out Fumiki Sakuyama with Tomokazu Kaize waiting in scoring position, but not before Japan lofted its lead to 9-0.

“We knew we had a strong opposition,” Curacao manager Vernon Isabella said through translator Alecto Nicolaas. “We’ll have a meeting in the dorm [tonight] and tell them it’s not over yet.”

And the Series isn’t over for the Caribbean champs, and the 1-1 team from Curacao is ready to put this loss behind them.

Four consecutive walks, intertwined with three wild pitches and a fielding error, led off the game and cut starting pitcher Dienston Manuela’s outing to a mere six batters. The Curacao hurler let in three runs before Isabella gave Garcia the nod for the remaining two outs.

“He just lost control,” said Isabella of his starter. “It’s a kids game and he couldn’t find the strike zone.”

The two-hour, 12-minute game saw five wild pitches (two from Manuela and three from Garcia), a passed ball and an error from Curacao, which accounted for four Japan runs.

“There were some wild pitches,” said Chiba City manager Hirofumi Oda through translator Bill Lundy. “We made the best of the situation, but we still left three on.

“We still only had seven hits today, but the hits were much better than yesterday,” he continued. “We are a power-hitting team traditionally.”

In the fourth, Taira hit a monster over the center field fence, pumping his fist as he rounded the bases and tallying his first home run of the Series. His homer marked the fifth Japan runner to cross home plate.

Two innings later, Taira returned to the mound in search of his complete game. The ace finished his three-hit shutout without showing the slightest sign of fatigue. The pitcher faced four batters in the sixth, fanning two.

So how did it feel to beat the defending champions?

“It was awesome,” said Taira. “To beat last year’s champ is just the best.”

Game Photos

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