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

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Same Path to LLWS Championship Game, But Different Mentalities

Both Tennessee and Japan go undefeated, but their approach to the championship game remains different

Author: Samantha Ciccocioppo and George Thompson

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date: Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012

The announcement is in—playing in this year’s Little League World Series Championship game will be the Japan champs, Tokyo, Japan, Little League and the Southeast champs from Goodlettsville,Tenn., Little League. Both teams go into the title game undefeated, so this should be a game for the ages.

For this team from Tokyo, Japan, a lot of time, effort, and sincere commitment to their sport has gone into their journey to the championship.

During this 66th annual Little League World Series, Japan has taken on various opponents and shutdown each and every one.

“We will go into the game under normal condition and not feel too much pressure. Each player can take on their responsibility, but it’s a win either way.”-- Japan Coach Junji Hidaka

Japan took on the the Caribbean champions from Willemstad, Curacao, in their first game at the Series, and while both teams were national champions in their own countries, Japan clearly had the upper hand. With the use of strong pitching and early defensive attacks the Caribbean stood no chance against Japan as they swept away their competition, 7-0.

The second victims of this Japanese powerhouse were the Asia-Pacific champions from Taoyuan, Chinese Taipei Little League. Now this was an evenly matched game and could be seen by all in attendance that evening as the game extended an extra three innings. Both teams were able to strike out 30 combined batters, yet no team had the clear advantage this time. It took until the top of the ninth inning but finally Japan was able to figure out their opponents pitching techniques and in turn, scored off a 2-run home run by Hajime Motegi to win, 2-0.

Japan advanced to the international championship game on Saturday by defeating Latin America, a game that would only mimic the outcome of the International championship game itself. In their first game Latin America fell to Japan, 4-1. Latin America then faced and beat Mexico the very next day, to earn their spot in the championship against Japan.

The international championship game held much excitement for those from Japan. Japan went in to the game with their defense intact and their bats a swinging. The team was able to score a total of four home runs and earn 10 runs in the six innings it took to bring the game to a close. While Latin America had a strong defense in pitcher James Gonzalez, it was not enough to keep the pitchers of Japan at bay and the bats of Latin America simply could not get going.

“Japanese pitching is the best here in the tournament. Japan is going to be the World Series champion this year,” said Latin America manager Luis Gonzales.

However, there is still one team that has a say in that matter, and that team is the Southeast, who beat the West champs from Petaluma, Calif., Little League, 24-16 in 7 innings in the United States Championship game on Saturday.

While the score may seem a little ludicrous, both coaches attributed it to good hitting from both sides.

“They just hit the ball,” West manager Eric Smith said after the game.

“We were just looking for fastballs,” Southeast manager Joey Hale said of this team who combined for five home runs.

Lorenzo Butler was the star of the show with three 3-run homers and nine RBIs on the day, a Little League World Series record.

“It was fun to see him hit like that,” Hale said.

Similar to Japan, the Southeast’s march to the Little League World Series title game has also gone unimpeded. The Southeast champs opened their tournament against the Midwest champs from Kearney, Neb., Little League, dominating them on both the offensive and defensive end by a score of 12-1.

Their next game was against the West, who would be their future opponents in the United States Championship game. Just like the championship game, the first matchup would be a tight contest, with the Southeast coming out on top, 9-6. Their final opponent standing in the way of the U.S. title game would be the Southwest champs from San Antonio, Texas, Little League, and just as with all their other opponents, they would come out on top.

Going into the Little League World Series championship game, Hale and the team have a laid back attitude.

“If it's meant to be it is,” Hale said. “You just go and do the best you can.”

He said he is just enjoying the experience of being in South Williamsport and participating in what has become the marquee event of the summer.

This type of attitude is in sharp contrast to the Japan team, who is planning for another victory with their full arsenal of pitchers ready to go.

“Pitchers rotation is going well so far, like what I thought before in the planning period before the games. So I’m proud. For the next game Kotaro Kiyomiya, Yuta Ishida, Noriatsu Osaka we’ll use as pitchers, they are very good. Kiyomiya should be starting tomorrow,” said coach Junji Hidaka.

“Next game we try to be a very hard to the opponent’s pitcher because if we lose a game it’s not very happy, so we need to win in order to be happy,” said Osaka.

While Japan has become known for their powerful bats as well as their pitching, they are hoping to change the strategy at which they bat in the championship game.

“Our scoring is mainly by home runs, but tomorrow we are going to try to hit base hits,” said Japan right fielder Rintaro Hirano. “We want to score not only by the home run next game.”

So as we head into this series championship both teams look to be tough competition, but it’s important to remember how far these teams have come.

“We will go into the game under normal condition and not feel too much pressure. Each player can take on their responsibility, but it’s a win either way,” said Hidaka.

Japan and the Southwest will play each other Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Lamade Stadium for the chance to call themselves Little League World Series champions.