SAN DIEGO, August 25, 2013 — The emerging dynasty of American Little League, the U.S. champions from Chula Vista, California, could not hold off the ruling powerhouse team from Japan, as the team from Tokyo rallied past their California counterparts by a score of 6-4 to win the Little League World Series on Sunday.
It was the ninth title and third in four years for Japan. Who was the winning team prior to this streak? Parklane, Another Chula Vista, California team in 2009.
Ryusei Hirooka won it with a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth inning and Shunpei Takagi hit two solo home runs to help keep the Tokyo team undefeated in the tournament.
“In all honesty, I’m really happy,” said Japan manager Masumi Omae, who also led the 2003 Japan team to a World Series title. “I definitely always dreamt about coming back to win again. To be able to trust the kids and their abilities is something I’m most proud about.”
Chula Vista had several opportunities to score but could not convert thanks to a determined, focused Japan defense. The Americans left 12 runners on base in a game that was there for the taking.
“We left some opportunities out there, but give Japan credit,” Chula Vista manager Rick Tibbett said. “They made some great defensive plays.”
Facing one last threat in the sixth, the Japanese player turned a game-ending double play and gleefully tossed their coach Omae in the air.
“Wanting to be World Series champs is all we’ve talked about for the last two years,” Takagi said. “I was thinking, just get a hit at the plate. The outcome was two homers, so I was really happy.”
It was the 14th championship game for Japan and 23rd for California, which has won seven World Series titles.
The starting pitchers for both teams were a little off their game in the early innings. Grant Holman, the 6‘4”phenom who pitched a no-hitter earlier in the World Series, had not pitched since Wednesday. He walked two of the first three batters he faced and threw a wild pitch. Kazuki Ishida was not faring any better. After three innings, he had five strikeouts, but needed 69 pitches, while he also walked three, and hit three batters.
Japan took a 3-2 lead when Takagi led off the bottom of the third by slamming a homerun over the right-field fence on an 0-1 pitch. Takagi raised his right arm in triumph like the ever cool confident Steve Garvey as he rounded the bases and was mobbed by his teammates after crossing the plate.
Grant Holman avoided further damage by striking out pinch-hitter Tatsuki Nagano and getting pinch-hitter Seiya Nishino to ground out to first with two runners on. When he went to the dugout, Holman had only three pitches left to reach the maximum of 85 and was through on the mound for the day.
Giancarlo Cortez had a two-run single in the fourth to make the score 4-3 in favor of Chula Vista. Japan tied it on Takagi’s second homer and won it when Hirooka lined a 2-2 pitch down the left field line after not being able to sacrifice the runners up a base.
“My mind was full, trying to get the bunt down,” Hirooka said. “When I didn’t get (the bunt) down, my mind was blank. I’m just so happy I could get a hit to help our team win.”
Takuma Gomi’s solo home run gave Japan the win over Mexico in the international championship Saturday. He contributed again Sunday, lining an RBI single. A botched throw in from the outfield on the hit sailed wide of home plate, allowing Takagi, who had walked, to score an insurance run. And that’s where the score stayed.
It is a hard lesson to learn at this age that there are winners and losers in nearly everything. It is also important to learn about enjoying the ride, picking yourself up and looking forward to whatever might be around the corner. The kids from Cali watched their Japanese counterparts celebrate.
Once that was over, the boys warmly hugged each other, genuinely thrilled to have this once in a lifetime experience together. This is the charm of Little League and what it is really all about. We, as the adults who tend to mess these things up, would do well to remember it.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read Ringside Seat in Communities, follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter at @PRProSanDiego Gayle can be reached via Google +
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