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Tokyo 10, Maracaibo, Venezuela 0

August 21, 2000

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) _ With the big crowd and cameras on him, Ross Haggard didn’t know how he would respond Sunday in his Little League Series debut.

Just fine, was the answer.

Haggard came two outs from becoming the first pitcher to throw a perfect game in 43 years. Instead, he settled on a sparkling one-hit, 12-strikeout performance in leading Bellaire, Texas, to a 3-0 victory over Goffstown, N.H.

``I was just disappointed because I never had a perfect game. I really wanted it,″ said Haggard, who slightly lowered his head and wiped his brow after losing his no-hit bid. ``But, it’s OK with me, as long as we won.″

Haggard lost his bid for a perfect game when he walked Goffstown’s Alex Sobolov on five pitches. Then, Eric Szumiesz followed up with a bloop single that fell just out of second baseman Mitchell Malone’s reach.

It was the only ball Haggard allowed out of the infield.

He settled down, striking out Stephen Desjarlais and ending the game by getting Jonathan Berube to line out to first base.

There have been eight one-hitters since the Series went to pool play in 1992. Only two perfect games have been recorded in Series play, the last by Angel Macias, who threw one in the 1957 championship game for Monterrey, Mexico.

The one-hitter wasn’t even Haggard’s best game this year after he pitched a no-hitter against West Virginia in the Southern Regional final.

``They were a tough team, and Ross just pitched a tough game. I would’ve hated to have been the opposing team,″ Bellaire manager Terry McConn said.

In Sunday’s other game, Leo Nakayama struck out 12 and hit a home run to lead Musashi Fucho Tokyo to a 10-0 victory over Sierra Maestra-Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Bellaire’s Drew Zizinia had three hits and an RBI, while Malone had two hits and scored once as the Texas team won its ninth straight.

Goffstown pitcher Ben Collins went the distance, allowing three runs _ two earned _ and eight hits. Collins walked three and struck out nine.

Goffstown manager Frank Szumiesz is sure his team will bounce back despite the setback.

``Let’s face it, we’re in the World Series,″ Szumiesz said. ``We have two more games, guaranteed three, and anything can happen. We’re not out of it.″

After struggling early, Nakayama settled into a dominating groove. Although he walked six, he allowed only two hits and recorded the game’s first 11 outs by strikeout before Elvis Leon grounded out to third base with two outs in the fourth inning.

Nakayama also had three hits, one a towering home run to left-center to lead off the fourth, and scored four runs.

It was a big win for Tokyo, which is attempting to defend the nation’s title after Osaka, Japan, beat Phenix City, Ala., in last year’s championship game.

``There was a lot of pressure coming into this first game, having won last year,″ Tokyo manager Masumi Ohmea said. ``Moving forward, it’s great to win the first game. ... It relieves some pressure now that we’re in the driver’s seat.″

The game was called after the fifth inning due to Little League’s 10-run rule when the Far East team scored twice to go up 10-0, and Maracaibo failed to score in the bottom half.

Maracaibo manager Eduvino Quevedo was disappointed but hopeful that his team can bounce back.

``The fact that they started out bad isn’t going to hurt his confidence,″ interpreter Micah Hughes said, speaking for Quevedo. ``They’re just kids, they’re just 12-years-old, they’re going to bounce back.″


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