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
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
“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
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
“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
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
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
“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.”
© 2006, Little League Baseball
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