Japan routs Curacao to secure spot in LLWS international final
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Baserunner Akihiro Takeuchi was so excited by Ryohji Kimura's home run, he kept turning around and smiling back at his teammate while they rounded the bases.
The rest of the Tokyo team mobbed Kimura when he reached home plate. The 12-year-old slugger's three-run homer sparked a six-run second inning that gave Japan an 11-4 win Wednesday over Willemstad, Curacao, to clinch a berth in the international finals of the Little League World Series.
The first inning was rough for Japan, which fell behind 3-1 after starter Takumi Ozeki said nerves affected his control.
That's when Japan's offense got going. Shodai Mizuno and Takeuchi reached base after getting hit by pitches by Curacao starter Junters Dosset in the second - two of six hit batsmen in the game for Japan.
It set up Kimura's one-out homer to center field that allowed Japan to take a 4-3 lead against Curacao, which was eliminated.
Kimura, barely breaking a smile afterward, said he got batting tips from coaches earlier Wednesday.
"I followed the manager's and coaches' advice and then hit the home run," he said through interpreter Tatsushi Hayashi. "I was happy."
Ozeki followed three batters later with another three-run homer, this one into the hedges beyond left field.
On the mound, Ozeki allowed a three-run homer to Tivon Faneyte in the first but settled down the next four innings, retiring 12 in a row at one point before Mizuno came on in relief to get the final out of the game.
"Inning by inning, the stress was leaving me," Ozeki said.
Japan also benefited from 11 wild pitches by Curacao pitching, including seven by Juremi Profar.
"First of all I think they were a little nervous," Curacao manager Vernon Isabella said through interpreter Alecto Nicholaas about his pitchers. "Japan was close to blocking home plate, they were covering it way too much."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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