Game 16
Latin America
4 vs. Asia 7

Monday, August 22, 2005
1:00PM ET
Volunteer Stadium

Japan swims through Pool D, holding off Venezuela to complete 3-0 sweep
Runs don’t come in bunches, but Japan scores enough to get by

By Mark Rogoff

The name of Japan’s game was persistence this time around.

It wasn’t the easiest of games vs. Venezuela by any means, as the pesky bunch from the Latin America region refused to let Asia run away with it, at one point eliminating a 4-0 hole by tying the score in the third thanks to back-to-back home runs.

Japan left the bases loaded in the first and third innings, and left runners on at the corners in the fourth, preventing itself from any big inning.

“I was getting a little worried because they are a power-hitting team and they are very fast,” Manager Hirofumi Oda said through interpreter Bill Lundy.

But in the end, the Chiba City children prevailed, scoring at least one run in all six innings and holding off Venezuela 7-4 before 5,025 at Volunteer Stadium.

Tomokazu Kaise’s RBI single with no outs in the top of the fourth snapped the 4-4 draw, giving Japan the lead for good and sending his mates to a 3-0 record with first place honors in Pool D. Japan will play the second-place finisher of Pool C in Wednesday’s international semifinal.

“It wasn’t necessarily the plan I had (to go 3-0),” Oda said. “But the result (of advancing) was what I was looking for.”

Japan jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Yusuke Taira, who led off the game with a single to center, scored from third on a passed ball after advancing to second on Takuya Sakamoto’s hit batsman and third on a wild pitch. Yuki Mizuma’s one-out RBI single to right scored Sakamoto.

Pinch hitter Jun Yamamoto made it 3-0 in the second, when his hot smash grounder went off Richard Alvarez Jr.’s foot at third, scoring Taira from second as the ball bounced into left field. Taira had reached on an infield single and made his way to second on a passed ball.

The lead increased to 4-0 with one out in the third, when Ryo Misawa worked a bases-loaded walk. The next two hitters struck out to end the threat.

“We were fortunate to get some of the runs in the middle of the game,” Oda said. “But we were trying to get one run at a time.”

Venezuela erased the four-run deficit in the bottom of the third with back-to-back homers, beginning with Richard Alvarez Jr.’s towering three-run shot to the grassy knoll in left-centerfield. Martin Cornieles followed with a solo shot that hit in the camera tower in straightaway center field.

Oda pulled starter Shuhei Iwata immediately after the blasts, and summoned Yuki Mizuma to stop the bleeding.

Mizuma promptly allowed a pair of base runners on a walk and a hit, but got the next three in order on a sacrifice bunt and two strikeouts. He then retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced, including eight straight to close it out. Mizuma even cracked a solo home run to lead off the sixth for good measure.

“I was very excited, and very excited for the team as well,” said the soft-spoken Mizuma through Lundy.

“We didn’t have much time to warm him up,” Oda said. “We were a little concerned with having no warm-ups in the bullpen, but he got better toward the end (of the game).”

Venezuela falls to 0-2, but has slim hopes for the second-place slot in Pool D. They certainly gave Japan all they could handle in the tough setback.

“I am happy with the fact that we competed with a very tough team,” said Manager Richard Alvarez Sr. through interpreter Luis Sanchez. “The kids were kind of sad, but then they found out we were still alive.”

Japan will take Tuesday off even though Oda says his team’s hitting could be better.

“This team’s batting has still not come up to the level it’s capable of getting at,” he said. “We have to keep working on that.”

Game Photos

2005, Little League Baseball Incorporated
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