Kanekubo's grand slam sends Japan to LLWS final
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Ryo Kanekubo hit a grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning to send Tokyo to the Little League World Series final with a 7-4 victory over Willemstad, Curacao.
Kanekubo raised his right arm in triumph as soon as he smacked the 2-2 pitch, an inside fastball, over the hedges beyond the left-center field fence.
It was Kanekubo's second homer of the afternoon, and the second straight game that Japan ended with a winning home run.
"I think our team slogan is never give up," manager Youichi Kubo said through a translator.
Kanekubo's teammates mobbed him at the plate before the smiling squad snapped pictures with the banner that proclaimed them Little League international champions.
Japan will play the winner of the U.S. championship between Lubbock, Texas, and Warner Robins, Ga., to decide the World Series title on Sunday.
Japan loaded the bases after several hard-hit singles, including a smash to third that Masaya Ogino beat out to load the bases for Kanekubo with one out.
Kubo said his 13-year-old slugger sometimes struggles with his confidence.
"Kanekubo can do it all the time but sometimes he thinks he cannot," Kubo said.
There was no doubt about Kanekubo's blast off reliever Rudson Pietersz that sent fans on the crowded hill behind the outfield scurrying for the ball.
Kanekubo's homer in the fifth tied the game at 3.
Curacao regained the lead in the top of the sixth when Ulrick Carmelia's two-out double scored Suenley Paulina from second before Kelvin Moesquit was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
Vincent Anthonia added two key hits and made a spectacular catch in center for Curacao.
With runners on first and second and two outs in the fourth, Ogino hit a hard, high liner to center. Anthonia backpedaled quickly, jumped and extended his glove for the catch.
The 12-year-old outfielder breathed a sigh of relief and smiled after seeing the ball in his glove.
After days of dreary conditions and below-normal temperatures, Curacao's bats struck early on a hot, sticky afternoon. Anthonia tripled in the third and scored on an error to give Curacao a 3-0 lead.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press