ABERDEEN, Md. Trying to do what no United States team has done the past two years, the West Raleigh 12U All-Stars tried to overcome Japan’s recent dominance in the Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series.
Japan would have none of it.
The international juggernaut pounded West Raleigh for 15 hits (seven for extra bases) en route to an 11-1, five-inning win Sunday in the World Series final played at Cal Ripken Sr.’s Yard.
“They’re going to hit the ball hard and put the pressure on you and pitch well,” West Raleigh coach Tyler Highfill said.
Japan did both, scoring in every inning but the third and limiting West Raleigh to four hits and a single run in the bottom of the third.
Victor Vargas, the starting West Raleigh pitcher, and his teammates benefitted from a good bounce to open the game but suffered on another bounce a batter later.
“I thought Victor came out and threw very well for three innings. He kept them off balance pretty good. They got a couple shots in there, the grass got slick and we kicked a few around and that’s a little uncharacteristic,” Highfill said.
Japanese leadoff hitter Yuma Fujiwara drilled a shot off the wall in right-center, but the carom was played right to centerfielder Tucker Jackson.
Jackson threw a perfect strike to shortstop Ryan Sholar to get Fujiwara.
Mizuki Kataoka, however, hit the next Vargas offering into the hole at shortstop. In an effort to keep the ball in the infield, the shortstop dove to his right and deflected the ball away from oncoming left fielder Jeff Griffin.
By the time Griffin got to the ball, Kataoka was cruising into third base.
Vargas struck out the next batter, Akito Shozu, but the inning continued as Yu Inaba lashed a 3-2 pitch to left to score Kataoka.
Japan’s additional scoring was lumped into multiples as three runs crossed the plate in the second; four more in the fourth and three in the fifth.
West Raleigh’s offense, meanwhile, was stymied by good defensive play from Japan. The team put its first two runners on in the second and third innings only to come up empty
As for series itself, Kyle Mott said, “This experience was amazing, just meeting the new kids from all around the world and getting to play them and interact with them, making new friends.”