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SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Ryusei Hirooka lined a decisive two-run double in the bottom of the fifth inning, Shunpei Takagi hit two solo home runs, and Tokyo beat Chula Vista, Calif., 6-4 on Sunday to win the Little League World Series.
It was the 14th championship game for Japan, which was making its fourth straight appearance in the title game, and ninth championship. California, making its 23rd championship-game appearance, has won seven World Series titles.
Japan finished the tournament undefeated but had to rally to beat the Americans, who left 12 runners on base in a game that was there for the taking.
Facing one last threat in the sixth, the Japanese players erupted in glee, tossing manager Masumi Omae in the air near the mound after his slick fielders had turned a game-ending double play.
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.
California received a scare when Cortez was hit by a pitch in the helmet during the first inning and departed for a pinch-runner after being examined on the field. Ishida went over to shake Cortez’s hand and apologize, and Cortez returned to play his position when Chula Vista took the field for the first time.
Holman, who pitched a no-hitter earlier in the World Series, hadn’t pitched since Wednesday and was shaky at the outset, walking two of the first three batters he faced and throwing a wild pitch as Japan quickly mounted a threat of its own and tied the score.
Takuma Gomi, whose dramatic solo home run in the top of the sixth had given Japan a 3-2 victory over Mexico in the international championship on Saturday, lined 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 the second run.
The West champions mounted another threat in the second, loading the bases with two outs. But Holman struck out, waving his bat ever-so-slightly at a pitch that was low and outside and shaking his head in dismay at the call.
If Japan had a plan, it likely was to make the hard-throwing Holman work, and the tall right-hander did just that. When he struck out Sho Miyao looking to end the second inning, he had thrown 50 pitches. Not a good omen for the West champions with a maximum of 85 allowed and Nick Mora, the hero of Saturday’s win over Connecticut with a 10-strikeout, two-hit performance, ineligible to pitch.
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