Game 30
0 vs.
Caribbean 2

Saturday, August 27, 2005
7:30PM ET
Lamade Stadium


An (intentional) walk in the park
Curacao enters Sunday afternoon’s final against Ewa Beach, Hawaii ready to defend its World Series title after beating Japan 2-0.

By Allie Weinberger

For the first time in Japan’s tournament play, the other team got on the board first.

In a Saturday night rematch of last Sunday’s bout between the Asia and Caribbean region champs (in which Curacao suffered a crushing 9-0 defeat), Curacao redeemed itself, shutting out the previously undefeated Chiba City Little League 2-0 in front of 16,595 at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

With this International Championship win, Curacao is granted the right to defend its 2004 Little League Baseball World Series Champion title.

“We know that [our boys] are world champions,” said Curacao manager Vernon Isabella through interpreter Alecto Nicolaas. “We came here out of 16 teams to reach the finals and we know [the players] are going to fight tomorrow to win the game.”

In the bottom of the third, an error on Japan third baseman Shuhei Iwata (following a Jurickson Profar single) scored Dienston Manuela from third. Profar moved to third on the play and scored on cleanup batter Sorick Liberia’s single to center field.

The Caribbean skipper said the first two of Curacao’s three hits came off a Yusuke Taira (1-0, 0.00 ERA prior to Saturday’s start) curveball.

“In the first game, Japan came with a pitcher [Taira] with lots of curveballs,” said shortstop Sorick Liberia through Nicolaas. “We just stayed back, waited for the breaking ball and then hit it off.”

Naeem Lourens laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Liberia to second before Darren Seferina was hit square on the left elbow by the first pitch he saw. Japan got out of the inning on an Alexander Rodriguez strike out down two runs.

Japan threatened Curacao’s 2-0 lead with two outs in the third. After a leadoff single, Taira was moved to second by a cleanly executed Takuya Sakamoto sacrifice bunt. An intentional walk of Yuki Mizuma put runners on first and second, and a five-pitch walk to pinch hitter Kosuke Suzuki loaded the bases for Kazuki Hatada.

“Numbers one, two and four [in the lineup] are Japan’s best hitters,” said Isabella. “They can turn around the game with one swing.”

With first base open, Isabella gave the sign for the intentional walk.

With the bases loaded, Profar (0-0, 3.79 ERA prior to Saturday) got Hatada to strike out swinging and got out of the inning unscathed.

“I was a little surprised [by the intentional walk],” said Japan manager Hirofumi Oda through interpreter Bill Lundy. “But there’s nothing I can do about it.”

It was Curacao’s turn to be a threat in the bottom of the third, when Taira faced Rylan Reina with two outs and the bases loaded. Taira recorded his seventh strikeout of the night as Reina left three stranded.

“We didn’t quite expect some of the curveballs that were coming in to us,” said Oda.

After getting the first two batters of the fourth inning out on strikes, Profar pitched himself into a jam by giving up a walk on four straight tosses to Iwata (who moved to third on a pair of wild pitches) and a walk to Taira.

With runners on the corners, Sakamoto stepped to the plate. Profar got the catcher to chase a 2-2 pitch up and away to get out of the inning.

“We probably could have bunted a little bit more, but when the chance was there, we just didn’t quite have control of our bats,” said the Japan manager.

In the bottom of the fifth, Profar drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on Taira’s third wild pitch of the game. A grounder from Liberia moved the pitcher to third with just one out and Sherman La Crus at the plate.

La Crus rolled one back to the pitcher, who threw to first for out No. 2. Profar tried to take home plate, but couldn’t make it in under the tag of catcher Sakamoto.

Japan escaped additional damage in the fifth, but they were still down 2-0. It was now or never for the Japan All-Stars. Profar returned to the hill in search of the first shutout of the Asia champs in the 2005 tournament.

With just one out remaining in Japan’s Williamsport tour, Profar got Kazuki Matsuo to ground out of tournament play on a 2-2 pitch. Profar retired the side in order.

“We wanted to win it all, but … it’s a dream come true just to come here,” said Oda.

Taira pitched a complete game and went 1-for-1 at the plate. The Japanese hurler allowed three hits and five walks, a small leap compared to his three-hit, one-walk Sunday night shutout of the Caribbean champs.

“Taira pitched a great game today,” said Oda. “He pitched it where he wanted to, but in the previous game they were swinging at that [curveball]. They weren’t swinging at it tonight.”

Profar also tossed a complete game, striking out 12 and walking six.

According to Rayshelon Carolina, who notched Curacao’s third and final hit off a slap-hit fastball in the third, the Caribbean squad feels invincible when Profar is on the mound.

Curacao intentionally walked Mizuma (.583 BA) in his first two plate appearances. Mizuma went 2-for-3 in the teams’ previous meeting, scoring twice and knocking in four of Japan’s nine runs.

In Mizuma’s only official at-bat, Profar struck the Japan slugger out swinging.

Curacao is set to meet United States champ Ewa Beach, Hawaii at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in the Little League World Series Championship game at Lamade Stadium. Liberia will start on the hill against Hawaii lefty Quentin Guevara.

“Since we came here,” said Isabella, “we have pressure, especially from the press down in Curacao, to defend the title.”

And though the manger feels the pressure, to Isabella, once the game starts it’s just another ball game.

Game Photos

Photos by Kevin Connolley & Jim Connolley

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