Japan routs Canada in international semifinal

Updated: August 24, 2005, 7:05 PM ET
Associated Press

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Japan is making another trip to the international championship at the Little League World Series.

Takuya Sakamoto tossed one-hit ball over four shutout innings, and Yusuke Taira hit a two-run homer and drove in four runs to lead Japan to an 11-0 win over Surrey, British Columbia, on Wednesday in an international semifinal game.

"This is the hitting I was hoping for through the whole series," Chiba City manager Hirofumi Oda said through an interpreter.

Rancho Buena Vista, Calif., will face Maitland, Fla., in the United States semis Wednesday night.

Guam will play defending series champion Willemstad, Curacao, and West Oahu of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, will face Lafayette, La., in the other semis on Thursday.

The world championship is Sunday.

The game was stopped after Surrey hit in the fifth inning because of the 10-run mercy rule.

After the game, the players lined up along the third-base line and bowed to a small group of fans, including an elderly man in a Chiba City jersey smiling as he bobbed his head along to "We Are Family."

Sakamoto was sharp in his second start of the series for Chiba City (4-0), the Asia champion. He struck out six and walked none, his only baserunner coming when he gave up Nathan de la Feraude's clean, two-out single to left in the third.

No worries about a rally, though. Sakamoto struck out Tanner Morache to end the inning.

"Because I did pitch before, I was a little more tired today," said Sakamoto, his cap respectfully placed on the table in front of him like the rest of his teammates.

Sakamoto struck out 11 in a complete-game shutout in Japan's first World Series game against Saudi Arabia.

"We have a very deep pitching team," Oda said. "There are many that pitch very well. Today, I think he pitched a good game."

Tomokazu Kaise worked the fifth for Chiba City.

Chris Fischer took the loss for Surrey (2-2), the Whalley Little League team that won the Canada region. Fischer allowed nine earned runs on 10 hits and struck out six in 4 1/3 innings.

"They're happy they made it here," said Surrey coach John Atkinson said. "This is their Stanley Cup."

Japan went ahead 2-0 in the third when Shuhei Iwata walked and Taira ripped a two-run shot that just cleared the hedges beyond the outfield wall.

"When that one went out, the wheels kind of fell off," Atkinson said. "We knew what we were up against."

Taira added an RBI double in the fourth and an RBI triple in the fifth. When Taira scored in the fifth on a passed ball to make it 10-0, the mercy rule went into effect.

Kisho Watanabe added a solo shot in the fifth, pumping his fist as he rounded the bases.

As the home team, Surrey did get one last at-bat.

Japan did not play in last year's Little League World Series after sending teams every year from 1997-2003. Japan has six Little League titles, with the last one coming in 2003.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press