Omedetou gozaimasu to Tokyo Little League for bringing another world championship home to Japan, beating the US Squad from Tennessee 12-2 (stopped after 5 innings due to the 10-run rule) in the championship game.
I’ve seen quite a bit of the tournament over the last 10 days, and Japan was truly spectacular, outscoring their opponents 35-5 in five games. Japan has won the LLWS 7 times before, but usually playing “small ball” – relying on bunts, defense and situational hitting. Well, these boys brought the defense and smarts, but also displayed huge power, leading the field in HRs, and a staff loaded with power pitchers. They were clearly the best team in the field. Honda Gorou would approve.
I was also pleased to see how much fun this team seemed to have under 72 year-old skipper Kubo Youichi, who won his second LLWS crown. They were a very relaxed group and Kubo-sensei himself smiled often, and I haven’t always seen that from Japanese LLWS teams. The standouts were the intimidating 6′ 200-pound Kiyomiya Koutarou, who hit some of the longest home runs I’ve seen in Little League (he posed in a Babe Ruth jersey this week) and pitched four overpowering innings today despite being squeezed by the obviously biased home-plate umpire, and Osaka Noriatsu. How good a day he Osaka-kun have? Three HRs and a triple in 4 ABs, and he closed out the game on the mound. In fact he closed out several games for Tokyo, who used him very much the way professional teams use their closer.