Japan Wins 2012 Little League World Series
Story by Lauren Gilbert
A 2-run walk-off home run by Tokyo, Japan’s Noriatsu Osaka put the mercy rule into effect in the bottom of the fifth inning at Lamade Stadium on Sunday afternoon as his 4 for 4 performance at the plate — which included three home runs and four RBIs –powered the international champions from Japan to a 12-2 victory over the U.S. Southeast champions from Goodlettsville, Tenn., to become the 2012 Little League World Series champions.
This was the first time that a team from Tennessee advanced to the championship game.
Dominant pitching and powerful hitting summarize the events of the game to a tee. Japan’s starting pitcher Kotaro Kiyomiya shut down his opponents and was nearly unhittable. He collected eight strikeouts over his four innings of work and gave up only one hit.
That one hit was a big one though, as Southeast’s Brock Myers went yard and smashed the ball over the left field fence in the top of the fourth inning.
“It felt awesome,” said Myers.
Kiyomiya congratulated Myers after the hit, as there have been few players to hit a ball that far off the pitcher who throws nearly 70 mph.
Osaka pitched the last inning and gave up one hit while striking out two.
Offensively for Japan, the boys were disciplined at the plate and got the job done. Leadoff hitter Osaka led the way with his 4 for 4 performance and collected a triple, three home runs, four RBIs and 15 touched bases.
“I had been struggling earlier in the tournament so I just wanted to do as well as I could,” said Osaka.
It’s safe to say he did as best he could.
“Our pitching and hitting is very balanced,” added Japan manager Yoichi Kubo. “We have a great pitching rotation which allows us to win games.”
This is something the Southeast was lacking on Sunday night, but they were still confident in their pitching staff.
“Our game last night (Saturday) drained a lot of our pitching,” said Southeast coach Jerry Hale. “Justin wanted to be out there and pitched a great game. They are just a great all around team.”
Coming into Sunday’s game would be hard for any team after Southeast’s emotional game on Saturday night.
“I knew the team would be flat today,” said Hale. “The boys were up pretty late last night celebrating their U.S. Championship.”
How could a team not be flat after they win 24-16 in a seven inning championship game the night before?
Hale is very proud of his team’s performance in South Williamsport though regardless of the loss.
“We showed a lot of heart and determination and I couldn’t be more proud of the boys,” said Hale. “Japan is by far the best team here and they deserve the crown.”
Japan knew they had an advantage going into this afternoon’s game.
“It was a big advantage for us that they were running low on pitchers,” said Kubo. “We’re so happy to win the championship and I cried because I was so excited.”
This is Kubo’s second World Series championship title in South Williamsport and his third appearance. He was the manager of the 2003 team that won, as well as the manager of the 2007 team that lost on a walk-off homerun. Tokyo, Japan, also won in 2010 but had a different manager.
Aside from who won and lost, both teams enjoyed playing each other as they had become friends over the past 11 days.
“Tennessee was one of our best friends in the dorms,” said Kubo.
“It was fun playing against them because we are all friends,” added Southeast’s Myers.
Even though the Southeast lost the game, their spirits were still high and upbeat.
“We’re bummed that we lost but second best in the world is pretty good,” said Myers. “I’m okay with it.”
Both teams plan to head home within the next day or two, but their schedules are not going to get any less hectic.
“We haven’t been home in a month,” said Hale. “We have a long list of things to still do once we get back.”
The team plans to attend Vanderbilt’s football game and speak at other sporting events in the coming weeks. Players, like Myers, also plan to start football season this week.
Japan plans to head home soon and take on whatever awaits them. They are grateful for the awesome experience they had in South Williamsport and will not forget the memories they made at the 66th Little League Baseball World Series.
Home page photo by Gene Puskar, Associated Press
Story page photo by Rob Carr, Getty Images