2012 Little League Baseball World Series
Williamsport, Pennsylvania - August 16 - 26

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Face Off For International Glory

Japan and Latin America Advance to International Championship Game

Author: Samantha Ciccocioppo

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date: Friday, Aug. 24, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen! Little League fans of all ages! Our time at the 66th Little League World Series is winding down. It's true that all good things must come to an end. However before this one of kind sporting event leaves until next August, there's still have a few great games to be played.

Latin American vs JapanLet’s talk about the International championship game between the team from Tokyo, Japan and the Latin America champions from Aguadulce, Panama. Both are extremely experienced. Japan enters with a 3-0 record through the Little League World Series, while Panama is 3-1.

Japan earned their World Series berth after winning the Japan Regional tournament, a single-elimination tournament which took place between late June and early July. In the championship game, the Kitasuna Little League from Tokyo defeated the Matsusaka Little League from Matsusaka City, Japan. Kitasuna Little League scored 10 or their 11 runs in the first inning against Matsusaka, en route to an 11-0 victory.

Meanwhile Latin America made their way into the Little League World Series by defeating Cardenales Little League from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, 6-5. Aguadulce Cabezer Little League from Aguadulce, Panama had the privilege of playing the Latin America Regional tournament, an eight-day, eight-team tournament in mid-July in their hometown.

"We’re going to have to try to motivate the team. They can beat Japan, it’s going to be tough, but they can beat that team."-- Latin America Manager Luis Gonzalez

Now that both teams have made it to South Williamsport, it’s time to discuss their epic journey to this final international championship game.

Opening up the Series this year, Japan defeated the Caribbean champions from Pariba Little League of Willemstad, Curacao. Japan brought their “A” game right from the first pitch last Thursday. Japan came in with strong pitching and an early offensive plan of attack, ending the game with a 7-0 victory over the Caribbean. The most notable performance taken from this game is the fact that Kotaro Kiyomiya and Noriatsu Osaka combined pitched six shutout innings.

According to Japan’s manager Yoichi Kubo the pitching rotation is something the team has been working out since before they arrived at the Series this year.

Latin America debuted their talent last Friday against the Middle East-Africa champions from Lugazi, Uganda, Little League. As it would seem, Middle East-Africa stood little chance against this powerhouse Latin America team. During the second inning, Latin America put five runs on the board thanks to pitcher Julio Goff, putting MEA in a deep hole fairly quickly. Despite the fact that MEA was clearly the crowd favorite at this game, Latin America was able to take the win, 9-3.

Japan faced the Asia-Pacific champions from Taoyuan, Chinese Taipei, Little League in the winners' bracket, a nine inning pitcher's duel. Both teams’ pitchers had a combined 30 strikeouts. After pulling the starters after the sixth inning due to reaching the maximum pitch count limit, the teams attempted to figure one another out. Japan’s Noriatsu Osaka was a total anomaly to Asia-Pacific batters, which gave Japan time to work out their opponents pitching. It was Japan's Hajime Motegi in the top of the ninth inning who blasted a 2-run home run to win it, 2-0.

In Latin America’s second game of the series, the team from Panama took on the Canada champions of Vancouver, British Columbia on that first Sunday. The team started out with a solid lead in the second inning after Carlos Flavio hit a home run followed shortly after by another from James Gonzalez, rounding out the second inning, 6-0. With the help of pitcher Edison Gonzalez, who had 13 strikeouts by the end of the game, this Latin America team kept their fire through the end adding another 2-run home run in the fourth inning.

Canada made it in on the board with two runs, but it was nothing in comparison to this force of Latin America. Latin America claimed the win, 8-3, staying in the winners' bracket and putting them against the talented Japan team in an anticipated game.

Japan’s international championship berth came from a 4-1 win over Latin America on Wednesday thanks to Japan pulling ahead early in the first inning with a 300-foot, 2-run home run landing north of the stadium on the hill full of unsuspecting fans. Kotaro Kiyomiya even surprised himself with the homer, saying he didn’t even realize it was a home run until it hit the ground outside of the complex; Shun Oshima closed the inning with another home run for Japan. While Latin America scored in the top of the fifth, Japan added an RBI triple in the bottom of the fifth, closing the game, 4-1.

Latin America was dropped into the losers' bracket and had to take on an extremely potent and strong Mexico offense from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Little League on Thursday. While Mexico has a tough team, Latin America was able to punch its ticket to Saturday's International championship with a 2-1 victory over Mexico.

This game was not easy for Latin America, both teams had strong pitching, but in the end it came down to one thing: one pitch.

“It was a tough game for both sides and then one pitch decided the game,” said Latin America manager Luis Gonzalez.

That one pitch was a 2-run shot over the left field fence early in the first inning to propel Latin America to the win.

Now the Japan and Latin America meet again in a rematch. Latin America and their powerhouse pitching meets the precision and dedication to their craft that Japan brings to each game. Both teams are familiar with one another after Japan's 4-1 win earlier in the Series and that could make for an interesting rematch.

“We’re going to have to try to motivate the team,” said manager Gonzalez, “they can beat Japan, it’s going to be tough, but they can beat that team”.

The International championship is scheduled for Saturday at Lamade Stadium at 12:30 p.m.