Little League World Series

Game 29: Japan 3 vs. Asia-Pacific 2

Pressure Points

Japan earns 3-2 win over Chinese Taipei in seven innings to advance to World Series Championship Game

Author: Mark Rogoff

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date/Time: Saturday, August 28, 2010, 1:00pm ET

Pressure was the common theme addressed by Japan manager Shingo Ariyasu and Chinese Taipei skipper Tung-Yu Ho following the International Championship Game at the Little League World Series on Saturday.

The team that could handle it would win. The team that couldn’t would end up in Sunday’s consolation game.

In the end, Japan brushed aside that pressure. Chinese Taipei did not.

In the first extra-innings game of the World Series, the Edogawa Minami All-Stars from Tokyo rallied for a 3-2 win over Chinese Taipei in seven innings in front of 25,425 fans at Howard J. Lamade Stadium. Ryo Motegi’s two-out single off Shao-Fei Huang scored Ryusuke Ikeda from third for the game-winning run.

It was the first game of the Series with a walk-off winner.

“The staff, especially the kids, believe in themselves,” Ariyasu said through interpreter Brian Thompson. “So we didn’t feel the pressure that much.”

“The kids were really tense,” Ho said of his Asia-Pacific All-Stars through interpreter and assistant coach Cola Yeh. “This is the first time they played in front of such a large crowd. Handling the pressure is most important for these kids. If they can handle the pressure, they can do better.”

Japan will make its first appearance in the World Series title game since 2007, when an all-star squad from Kitasuna Little League in Tokyo lost 3-2 to Warner Robins, Ga. A team from Japan hasn’t won the World Series Championship since 2003, when the Musashi Fuchu All-Stars from Tokyo defeated Boynton Beach, Fla., 10-1.

In Japan’s seventh inning on Saturday, Masaya Ishii got things started by bouncing a one-out single up the middle. He then advanced to second on a wild pitch, and was replaced by special pinch runner Ikeda. Teruma Nagata’s groundout to first moved Ikeda to third, and that set the stage for Motegi’s heroics.

“I wanted to connect, and I was aiming for centerfield,” Motegi said.

Trailing 2-1 in the sixth, Japan rallied to force extra innings.

Koutaro Kamikura led off the inning with a sharp single to left that went off the glove of third baseman Shang-Yu Wu. After Ginga Maruoka struck out on three pitches for the first out, Kamikura advanced to second on an errant pick-off attempt from catcher Hsun-Hao Shih. Ryota Norimatsu then delivered a game-tying RBI single up the middle.

“[Late in the game] you got to have good defense,” said Chinese Taipei manager Ho. “Japan did that. We did not.”

Shao-Fei Huang hadn’t allowed a hit in 4 2/3 innings of relief until giving up Kamikura’s leadoff single. He took the loss despite striking out nine and allowing just two runs (one earned) on four hits.

Chinese Taipei pitchers had surrendered only one run in three games prior to allowing three against Japan.

“We had these kind of games, where we have to come from behind,” Ariyasu said. “We preach patience and to concentrate.”

Japan got on the board first with Ichiro Ogasawara’s RBI double down the left-field line in the first inning. He drove in Norimatsu, who worked a one-out walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch.

Chinese Taipei came right back in the top of the second to take a 2-1 lead. Shih led off the inning with a walk and was replaced by special pinch runner Yi-Chung Chen. After advancing to second on a wild pitch, Chen was brought home by Wu’s double to left-centerfield. Two ground outs later, Wu scored from third on a passed ball.

Japan starter Natsuki Mizumachi allowed two runs on three hits and three walks in five innings of work. Ikeda pitched the sixth, and Kamikura fanned two in a scoreless seventh to earn the victory in relief.

Kamikura had yet to pitch in World Series competition.

“He is very small, but he has a strong throwing arm,” Ariyasu said. “He has good control, a good curveball. That’s why I decided to put him in. Also, his face looks like the Terminator.”