Japan 12, Puerto Rico 2 (5 Innings)
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) _ Japan will have a shot at redemption in the Little League World Series.
The team from Osaka defeated poor-fielding Yabucoa, Puerto Rico 12-2 Thursday to advance to Saturday’s championship game.
Toms River, N.J.’s game with Phenix City, Ala., in the U.S. final was suspended in the top of the second inning because of rain with Toms River leading 2-0. It will resume at 11 a.m. EDT Friday with Toms River’s Chris Cunningham on first base, no outs and Bryan Woodall having come in to replace Colby Rasmus at pitcher for Phenix City.
Eric Campesi walked to start the game, took two bases on wild pitches and then scored on Casey Gaynor’s grounder, and Derrick Egan later scored on Mike Casale’s grounder. In the next half-inning, Toms River manager Mike Gaynor started Zack Del Vento but pulled him after a walk and replaced him with Casey Gaynor, his son, who then struck out the side.
Japan has a team in the final for the second consecutive year. Kashima lost 12-9 to Toms River last year in a game with 11 home runs.
Osaka’s players avenged a 3-1 loss to Yabucoa on Tuesday mostly by hitting singles and taking extra bases when Yabucoa’s fielders faltered.
``Our pitching was what got us here, and that broke down a bit, and our defense definitely broke down,″ Yabucoa manager Edwin Carrasquillo said through intepreter Micah Hughes.
Sho Nishida ended the game when a two-run single in the bottom of the fifth gave Osaka a 12-2 lead. Little League games end when the margin reaches 10 runs. Relief pitcher Kazutoshi Adachi left because of stomach pains in the fourth inning.
With two outs in the first, shortstop Josue Rivera let Sho Nishida’s grounder skip over his glove. Two batters later, Kazutoshi Adachi drove home Kazuki Sumiyama with a single to kick off an seven-run inning off losing pitcher Cristian Gonzalez and Francisco DeJesus.
All the runs were unearned, and Puerto Rico’s outfielders consistently missed their cutoff men and threw wildly.
With the large lead, starting pitcher and staff ace Sumiyama was replaced, keeping him eligible for Saturday’s championship. He had a two-run homer in the third off Jose Casanova, the last of four Puerto Rico pitchers.
``I am excited about pitching in the Little League final, and I hope someday to pitch for the Hanshin Tigers,″ a professional team in Osaka, Sumiyama said through interpreter Bill Lundy.
Manager Tsutomu Kameyama said he couldn’t get comfortable even with the lead.
``With kids, you never know what is going to happen,″ Kameyama, a former player for the Hanshin Tigers, said through the interpreter. ``Maybe if I was up by 100 runs, well, then I would feel comfortable.″
The series’ smallest player _ 4-foot-7, 74-pound Takashi Sakurai _ had a pinch-hit bunt for a base hit in the first and jumped around like a sweepstakes winner afterward.
Many of Puerto Rico’s players weigh twice as much as Sakurai, but he scooped up grounders at second base smoothly with his reddish glove in the most action he has seen yet in the series, five innings. After the game, he tapped his microphone like a pro to make sure it worked during a news conference.
Gonzalez hit a two-run homer in the third for Yabucoa, Puerto Rico’s first team in the series in 20 years.
Japanese teams won the series in 1967, 1968 and 1976.