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Curacao wins first title

8/29/2004

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Carlos Pineda looked shaky when
he started with three consecutive balls and then hit California's
leadoff batter. But he got a lot better in a hurry.

Pineda struck out 11 and Jurickson Profar hit a two-run homer as
Pabao Little League of Willemstad, Curacao, took an early lead and
held on for a 5-2 victory over Conejo Valley of Thousand Oaks,
Calif., in the Little League World Series championship on Sunday
night.

Curacao coach Michelangelo Celestina said the early advantage
was "very important, because it was the first time we were in a
final game of the Little League World Series."

Teams from Curacao reached the international final game the
previous three years, but lost each time to a team from Japan.

California scored both of its runs in the top of the sixth, and
had runners on first and third with two outs. James Brady grounded
to first baseman Christopher Garia, who won a race to the bag for
the final out.

It was the first Little League title for the tiny island in the
Netherlands Antilles, and the first for any team from the
Caribbean. Jonathan Schoop, who earned the save, said he expected
crowds at the airport and a lot of attention at school.

In the consolation game, Lamar National Little League of
Richmond, Texas, beat Linda Vista Little League of Guadalupe,
Mexico, 5-0. Randal Grichuk's second hit of the game for Texas tied
the record for hits in a series with 12.

Curacao (6-0) never trailed, going up 1-0 in the bottom of the
first on Schoop's RBI single. Facing a 1-1 count, Profar homered to
left field -- his first home run of the series -- to make it 3-0.

"I did all the things good I wanted to do -- hitting, defense,"
Profar said through an interpreter.

After that, Pineda (2-0) kept his team out of trouble.

"He was throwing very hard," Celestina said. "I think the
speed that he has is unbeatable."

But it wasn't so much the speed as the deft mix of Pineda's
fastball, breaking ball and the occasional curveball to keep
California (5-1) off balance. Pineda struck out seven straight from
the first inning through the third -- but that was only after his
rough start.

"I was not following through, I wasn't whipping the ball for
that first batter. That's why I was wild," Pineda said through an
interpreter.

After that, "I concentrated for the strikes," Pineda said.

It was almost a complete collapse for a California team that
many expected to dominate. Conejo Valley committed just two errors
in five games, but had three errors by the end of the third inning
of the title game. On Saturday night, California shut out a Texas
team that averaged more than 10 runs a game.

California's coaches refused to come to the postgame news
conference.

Curacao broke the game open in the third on a strange RBI double
by Quincey van Blarcum. Cody Thomson slid to make the play in right
field, but the ball bounced in front of him and over his body.

Charlton Martis scored easily, while Willie Rifaela and van Blarcum
continued around the bases.

The runners appeared to be jammed when Rifaela held up at third
and van Blarcum was caught halfway between second and third. But
when Rifaela went home, the throw to the plate was off the mark,
allowing Rifaela to score, making it 5-0.

Curacao almost had another run when Schoop hit a long fly ball
to right field, but Thomson stretched over the wall to make the
catch.

Sean McIntyre doubled in the top of the sixth, setting up Adam
Justiniano's two-run homer that brought California within 5-2. John
Lister reached base on an outfield error, and Thomson singled on a
short fly to right field, advancing Lister to third. But Garia made
the play on Brady's grounder to secure the win for Curacao.

Jordan Brower (1-1) took the loss.

Third place: Texas 5, Mexico 0
Grichuk's 12th hit of the series gave Texas a 3-0 lead in the
third. He drove in Joey Scheurich with a single to center, tying
the record set in 1996 by Hsieh Chin-Hsiung of Fu-Hsing Little
League in Kaohsuing, Taiwan.

Grichuk scored on Dustin Moehlig's ground-rule double, and
Steven Crawford's RBI single made it 5-0. Grichuk struck out 11 for
Texas (5-1) and had two RBIs on his two hits.

"I didn't even know about the hitting thing," said Grichuk,
who was chasing a record for most home runs. With four in this
series and two last year, he fell one short of the record.

Grichuk's drive down the left field line in the first inning
scored Joey Scheurich for a 1-0 lead, but Grichuk was tagged out
trying to get to third. Daniel Homann followed with his second home
run of the series.

Mexico (3-3) had runners on second and third after Walter
Montemayor's single in the bottom of the first, but Grichuk
stranded the runners by striking out Victor Gonzalez. Alan
Camarillo almost got Mexico on the board in the bottom of the sixth
with a fly ball to center field, but Ray Cervenka caught it at the
wall.