Japan breezed its way through the International pool of the Little League World Series, including a win over Mexico, which has reached the International Championship game and is looking for revenge.
The two sides will meet for the right to international glory and a spot in the championship game against the winner of the U.S. pool.
While it is easy to pencil in Japan as the favorite, especially considering the run of dominance the country has had as a whole in recent years, including winning two of the last three titles, Mexico is not to be underestimated.
When: Saturday, Aug. 24 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Where: Howard J. Lamade Stadium, South Williamsport, Pa.
Note: All stats and info courtesy of the tournament's official website.
The Road for Japan (Musashi Fuchu)
Japan has plenty of offensive firepower, but it is the pitching that is most impressive. When both come together in perfect harmony, Japan is impossible to defeat.
That was the case for Japan's opening game, a 7-3 win over Europe and Africa that saw Kazuki Ishida hit a double and a home run.
Most shocking was Japan's use of the pitching staff—a new pitcher was on the mound at the top of each inning.
That experience parlayed into a narrow 3-2 victory over Asia-Pacific. Takuma Gomi hit a two-run homerun in the top of the sixth to put Japan up 3-0, and the pitching handled the rest.
Japan would also go on to defeat Mexico to qualify for the final. The pitching has given up just 2.3 runs per game leading up to the final. Expect nothing less than excellence from the staff in the rematch with Mexico.
The Road for Mexico (Municipal De Tijuana)
Mexico started the tournament off with a bang. The team embarrassed Australia to the tune of 12-0 in just four innings while star pitcher Brandon Meza pitched a shutout.
The star for Mexico offensively is Ramon Mendoza, who homered twice in the team's second game—a 13-0 waxing of Latin America.
Mexico began to cool offensively after putting up huge numbers in the first two contests. The team dropped a game to Japan before being tasked with taking on Latin America once more for the right to advance to the semifinal.
The rematch did not look anything like the original matchup.
Mexico only mustered four runs, but it was enough to sneak by Panama. Jorge Romero hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning to put the team in front for good.
Mexico has an uncanny amount of weapons to push runs across the plate, but the consistency has not been there.
Last Time They Met
When these two teams squared off in front of 13,500 people in game No. 23, Mexico's penchant for high offense was stifled by Japan's excellent pitching staff.
The game was tied at two entering the fifth inning, but Kazuki Ishida blasted a home run over the center wall to give Japan a lead it would never surrender.
The homer started what would be a three-run fifth inning that led to the final score of 5-2.
Mexico showed a semblance of respect for Japan's pitching, as Mexico manager Francisco Fimbres told the media: “They handle their pitching very well—they paint corners and pitch low...They have a lot of fast breaking balls and they’re very (good) pitchers.”
Now on a collision course in the international championship, Mexico will have to find some answers to the pitching staff of Japan.
Expect more of the same here from both squads after meeting less than a week ago.
After Mexico had won its first two games by a total of 25-0, it only mustered two runs against Japan's staff. That was followed up by just a four-run output against a team it had earlier blown out.
Mexico was brought back down to Earth by Japan's pitching and has been unable to rebound. Don't expect that to suddenly happen here, with Japan's pitching staff well rested and familiar with Mexico.
Japan advances to the championship once again.
Japan 6, Mexico 3.
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