If Kitasuna Little League pitchers were worried about their first game back after a six-week layoff since winning the Japanese Region, then imagine what they might do with more frequent appearances.
Kitasuna, from Tokyo, cruised in the first game of the Little League Baseball World Series Thursday, 7-0, over Caribbean titlist Willemstad, Curacao. Kitasuna pitchers Kotaro Kiyomiya and Noriatsu Osaka combined for 14 strikeouts, while allowing two hits and one walk.
The victory advanced Kitasuna into Sunday's game vs. Taiwan, while Pariba dropped into an elimination game Saturday vs. Ramstein, Germany.
Kiyomiya said he wasn't nervous about returning from the time off, but didn't want to think about it.
"I threw a good straight ball, but my control was off," Kiyomiya said through an interpreter.
He threw 31 of his 48 pitches for strikes and struck out the first five Curacao hitters. Three players reached base off him, when Mychellon Jansen advanced two bases on a dropped third strike in the second inning and when Daytan Biegel and Jaeir Janzen were hit by a pitch and walked, respectively.
Kitasuna manager Yoichi Kubo joked through an interpreter that the dropped third strike was the result of Kiyomiya being too good for catcher Tatsuya Irie. He also was happy to keep both Kiyomiya and Osaka under 50 pitches and eligible for Sunday, with a goal of keeping them eligible for every game.
Osaka allowed both hits but also struck out seven as Christopher Koeiman doubled in the fourth and Jansen singled in the sixth.
The Japanese players hadn't played since winning the Japan Region on July 7, and Kubo said they weren't on other concurrent non-Little League teams such as some United States counterparts in years past. Osaka spent that time practicing his grip on the LLWS ball, which he said felt different than ones at home.
"I didn't throw like I'd like to throw, but the result was fine," Osaka said through an interpreter. He threw 30 of his 47 pitches for strikes.
The Japanese players hit well enough, too. Osaka was 2 for 4 with three RBI, doubling home Satoru Aoyome and Kiyomiya in the second inning and singling home Ryuji Osada in the fifth.
Aoyama was 3 for 4 with two runs scored, as his triple highlighted a three-run first inning.
Curacao manager Edmiro Chirino said his team was nervous early on, especially since the opponent was perennial International power Japan, but liked how his team settled and forced the game to go the distance. He also said he pulled starting pitcher Christopher Koeiman after 35 pitches to keep him eligible for Saturday.
Koeiman took the loss, allowing six hits and six runs in 1 1/3 innings. He, plus later relievers Siamani Boekhoudt and Ruendy Carolina stayed under 35 pitches and also will be eligible Saturday if needed.
"They'll settle down, this is the first game they were here," Chirimo said through an interpreter. "They were nervous but they will play better in the second game."
It was Pariba's first game since reaching the first two expanded LLWS in 2001-02, when both entries fell in pool play and the International title game to Japanese teams. Pabao LL from Willemstad, Curacao, won the Caribbean region from 2003-09 to play here, and took the 2004 LLWS title.