Japanese aces unseat Americans
Posted: Monday, August 30, 2010 11:48 am
By: By GENARO C. ARMAS, AP Sports Writer
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — The Little League aces from Japan ended the United States’ five-year reign as World Series champions.
The team from Tokyo limited Waipahu, Hawaii, to four singles, and got a homer and three RBI from Konan Tomori to take the Little League World Series title with a 4-1 victory Sunday.
For the first time since 2003, a team from Japan is flying home with the championship banner.
Hawaii, which had scored 29 runs over its previous three games, came up short at the plate against Tokyo.
Hawaii’s only run came on an error off a sacrifice bunt in the fourth, but reliever Ichiro Ogasawara worked out of a second-and-third jam with a strikeout and a weak bouncer.
Cheered on by Hawaii fans waving U.S. flags and tea leaves they’ve been carrying around for good luck, the Waipahu All-Stars put on a valiant effort on the mound and with the glove. Thirteen-year-old lefty starter Cody Maltezo, who hadn’t pitched in roughly a month, held Japan to four hits over 5 2-3 innings, and Noah Shackles’ fine stop of a hard bouncer at third likely saved two runs from scoring in the third.
But the mashers from the West region couldn’t get the clutch hits that had propelled their unlikely run of four victories in four elimination games over four days into the Little League final.
So the All-Star team from Tokyo’s Edogawa Minami Little League became the first international team to take the crown since Curacao in 2004. A team from Tokyo’s Musashu-Fuchu league was the last winner from Japan, the previous year.
Through the week, Japan’s fans clad in bright red hats and white T-shirts have been cheering the team with rhythmic clapping from the stands, at times to the melody of “Popeye the Sailor Man,” the muscle-bound cartoon character.
But pitching and defense were the forte of a squad with a team ERA of 1.92 entering Sunday.
Natsuki Mizumachi took a few steps to his right and dropped to his knees to rob Kahoea Akau of a hit to center in the fifth. Twelve-year-old second baseman Koutaro Kamikura followed that up with a nice stop to his right of a hard bouncer by Ty DeSa to save another hit.
The 12-year-old Tomori tacked on two insurance runs in the sixth with his opposite-field shot to right.
Chants of “USA! USA!” echoed through Lamade Stadium after Shackles reached on an error with one out in the sixth.
But Ogasawara got a strikeout for the second out, and Teruma Nagata happily jogged in from right when he caught the final out.
The teams exchanged handshakes at the plate before Japan’s players walked to the mound with their new souvenir — a banner that read “2010 Little League World Series Champions.”