Game 27
Asia  4 vs. Transatlantic

 August 24, 2006
3:30PM ET

Sato, the One-Man Show
Ryoya Sato tosses complete-game four-hitter and knocks in all four runs vs. Saudi Arabia to give Japan a date in the International final

By Mark Rogoff
Special Correspondent

We’ve seen it time and time again in Little League…one star player pitches and hits his way to victory.

This time, in an International semifinal at the 60th Little League Baseball World Series, it was Japan’s Ryoya Sato.

Sato allowed one run on four hits in his complete-game effort, and knocked in all four Japan runs with a two-run single and a two-run homer, as the Asia region champs snatched a 4-1 win from Saudi Arabia in front of 7,187 at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

Japan moves on to face Mexico in the International Championship on Saturday.

“When we were playing against Russia, I threw a no-hitter,” Sato said through interpreter Bill Lundy. “I intended on throwing a no-hitter again today. Right from the beginning, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. I am glad, however, to walk away with the win.”

Sato struck out 11 and walked two in his six innings of work. His two-run single in the fourth made it 2-0, and his two-run homer in the sixth provided the insurance in what had been a 2-1 ballgame.

“My hitting was not good at all until today,” Sato said. “I was fortunate that I got a curveball breaking just the way that I like it at just the right time. I was to able connect and get my home run.”

“The batting, though late, came on at a time when it was necessary,” offered manager Shigeru Hidaka through interpreter Lundy.

The win for Japan wasn’t easy by any means. Saudi starter Matt Timoney baffled the opposition for the first three innings, holding them scoreless while allowing a pair of hits and striking out six.

In fact, the Saudi Arabia All-Stars came within inches of taking a 2-0 lead themselves in the bottom of the third. Catcher Nate Barnett hit a liner off Sato to straightaway centerfield with two outs and George Luo on first. The ball hit the wall on the fly, coming within inches of going over. Luo tried to score all the way from first, but was thrown out at the plate by centerfielder Seigo Yada.

“When I first saw the ball coming out to me in centerfield, my first thought was to help out the pitcher because I hadn’t hit well yet,” Yada said through Lundy. “I pulled whatever strength I could from within me, and I knew I had to throw this person out at home plate. I was happy the catcher caught it and was able to tag him out.”

The defensive play of the day, however, came with one out in the top of the fifth, when Yada belted a towering fly ball to center off Timoney. Centerfielder Michael Knight backtracked to the wall and reached over to rob Yada of a home run and a 3-0 Japan lead.

“The curveball came in and I thought I was going be able to get a good connection with it,” Yada said. “I swung through, and thought it was a good hit off of a good pitch. The centerfielder made a good play, and that’s the way it is.”

When asked if he thought the catch change the momentum, manager Hidaka said, “It may have helped spark them, but it forced us to dig down a little bit deeper and play ball. It didn’t really affect our momentum.”

Hidaka was right.

In the fifth, the Saudis got to Sato and cut the lead in half at 2-1. Following Michael Knight’s one-out walk and Barnett’s two-out hit batsman, Timoney doubled to the left-centerfield gap to score Knight. Saudi left the tying and go-ahead runs on the bases, however, when Andrew Holden struck out swinging.

Sato’s two-run homer in next half inning was the insurance and exclamation point.

Timoney finished the day on the mound having allowed four runs (two earned) on four hits in his complete-game effort. He fanned nine and did not walk a batter.

“Matt Timoney has the biggest heart out there,” said Saudi manager James Durley. “He’s a real gutsy kid. He’s as tough as nails. He’s as tough as they come. I’m so proud of the way he pitched today.”

“We hung in there,” Durley added. “I know nobody in the world gave us a chance, but 13 people in our dugout and our fans did. “They left everything they had out there on the field. We deserved to be here. We played really well against those boys. My team came to play, and I’m proud of each and every one of them.”

Saudi did bring the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the sixth. After Sato recorded two straight outs to start the inning, Robert Eyvazzadeh doubled to left-center and Ted Fitzmaurice reached on a fielding error. Sato then got Knight to strike out swinging to end it.

“I think the Saudis have an excellent baseball team,” manager Hidaka said. “They played great ball today. We’re fortunate that Sato came through with his pitching and the key hits in the game.”


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