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Japan beats California 6-4 for LLWS title
Question of the Day
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, PA. (AP) - The victory lap around Lamade Stadium never gets old for Japan, nor does the players’ ritual of scooping up some souvenir dirt near the mound after another Little League World Series triumph.
A perennial power in youth baseball, Japan rallied past Chula Vista, Calif., 6-4 on Sunday to win its ninth title and third in four years, the only disappointment in that recent span a loss in 2011 to Huntington Beach, Calif.
Ryusei Hirooka won this one 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 the 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.”
Facing one last threat in the sixth, the Japanese players erupted in glee, tossing Omae in the air near the mound after his slick fielders had turned a game-ending double play.
“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.
Trailing 4-3 after Cortez’s clutch single in the fourth, 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.”
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.”
Unbeaten, too, entering the game, Chula Vista struck early to send a message that it would be a tense affair.
Keyed by the shaggy-haired duo of Micah Pietila-Wiggs and Jake Espinoza at the top of the order, California scored twice in the top of the first against Japan starter Kazuki Ishida to put the pressure on. Pietila-Wiggs was hit by a pitch leading off and Espinoza lined a double down the left-field line. Pietila-Wiggs came around to score on a passed ball and Holman singled home Espinoza.
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