For the first time in years, an international team has won the Little League World Series.
With a combination of stellar defense, disciplined hitting, and aggressive baserunning, the boys from Tokyo brought down Hawaii in a 4-2 victory, clinching Japan's seventh Little League World Series Championship.
Throughout the tournament, Japan has been able to grind out close games and Sunday was no exception.
This time, four singles, a home run, and several defensive web gems backed their stellar pitching. Hawaii's only run came on an error off a sacrifice bunt in the fourth. The game lowered Team Japan's ERA to a paltry 1.92 mark.
On the offensive side, Japan relied on Konan Tomori, who had three RBI, including a big two-run homer in the sixth to give Japan some breathing room.
Japanese manager Shingo Ariyasu, who managed the team that lost in the 2008 International Final, was among those celebrating on the field after the final out.
“No slight to the 2008 kids, but I’ve said it before: These 2010 kids are very bright,” Ariyasu said.
Japan's biggest strength, in both this game and throughout the tournament, was their discipline.
They capitalized on their opponents' mistakes and minimized their own. Japan drew more walks and advanced on more wild pitches than any other team and had fewer unearned runs than most.
By playing smart, disciplined baseball, Japan was able to score despite an unexpected performance from Hawaii starter Cody Maltezo. Despite being Hawaii's No. 6 starter, Maltezo was impressive, handcuffing Japan to just five hits, four of them singles, over 5.2 innings.
“He pitched a great game,” Hawaii manager Brian Yoshii said. “I believe in all these kids. I know when their number is called they won’t give up on their teammates.”
For the Japanese, the thrill of victory was impossible to describe.
“I was so happy, I wasn’t thinking about anything,” said Ichiro Ogasawara, who earned his third save of the tournament with three scoreless innings.
For Hawaii, coming out of the loser's bracket to get within four runs of a World Championship is no great loss.
“I’m ready to go back home,” Yoshii said. “But I love it here. There’s no losers that come here.”
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