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
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."