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Apopka falls on last swing

Tokyo wins on final at-bat for second day in a row to take Little League World Series title.

[AP photo]
Third baseman Zach Zwieg reacts to his sixth-inning error against Japan, which scored two runs in the inning to win the World Series.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 27, 2001

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- The Tokyo Kitasuna team found something that worked during and after games, and it stuck with it all the way to the Little League World Series championship.

For the second time in as many games, the team from Japan rallied for two runs in its last at-bat, beating Apopka 2-1 Sunday night in the title game.

Nobuhisa Baba hit a line drive off the shortstop's glove in the sixth and final inning, driving in two runs and giving Japan its fifth Little League World Series title.

[AP photo]
Japan's Yuusuke Nomura celebrates scoring the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
"I was expecting a fastball. It came in a curveball, a little slow, and I just had good timing on the hit," Baba said.

Saturday night, Tokyo's Atsushi Mochizuki hit a two-run homer in the sixth that gave it a 2-1 victory over Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. It was the first time all season Japan had won a game in the sixth inning.

After both wins, the players ran to centerfield and bowed to a statue of former Little League vice president Howard J. Lamade, the stadium's namesake.

The players had asked interpreter Bill Lundy about the statue, but he didn't know who it was.

"I simply told them that was the baseball god," Lundy said. "When they won (Saturday), they went out to pray to the baseball god."

Masayuki Itoh and Yuusuke Nomura reached in the sixth on errors by third baseman Zach Zwieg, one fielding and one throwing. Both advanced on a fielder's choice, then scored on Baba's line drive to left. The throw from the leftfielder was cut off near the mound, and there was no play at the plate.

"When it came up to the final at-bat, we weren't trying to win the game all at once, we were just trying to get one run," Tokyo coach Kiichiro Kubo said. "I told them not to swing for the fence, just to put some meat into it."

Tokyo had three hits against Florida, and both runs were unearned.

Japan's last title came in 1999, when Hirakata, Osaka, beat Phenix City, Ala., 5-0.

Apopka was the seventh Florida team to reach the title game, but no team from that state has won. Apopka's coaches did not attend the postgame news conference.

Apopka upset the Rolando Paulino team from the Bronx, N.Y., 8-2 Saturday to win the U.S. championship. The Bronx had won the earlier meeting with Apopka when left-hander Danny Almonte pitched the third perfect game in Little League World Series history.

Mochizuki was the winning pitcher. Justin LaFavers, who had all eight of his strikeouts in the first three innings, took the loss.

Andrew Cobb scored the game's first run in the second inning on Jeff Lovejoy's single, a looper that dropped behind third base. Cobb reached on a fielder's choice, then advanced to second on a wild pitch.

Apopka twice had opportunities to pad its lead late in the game but couldn't convert. In the fourth inning, Mochizuki walked the bases loaded, but the inning ended on a fly ball to right by Stuart Tapley.

With runners on first and third in the fifth, Brandon Brewer left third on a short chopper and was tagged out at home on a fielder's choice. The other runners advanced to second and third, but the inning ended when Cobb grounded out to the pitcher.

N.Y. 9, NETHERLANDS ANTILLES 1: Danny Almonte had three hits and pitched a two-hitter as the Rolando Paulino team from the Bronx, N.Y., beat Wellemstad, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles in the consolation final.

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