International Bracket managers struggle to compile scouting reports of their Little League Baseball World Series opponents. Unlike their U.S. counterparts who can watch at least one ESPN broadcast going in, International managers only can go off what they see here.
Here's a tip for those playing Asia Pacific champ Kuei-Shan LL from Taoyuan County, Taiwan: Li-Wei Chiang might not be able to bunt. He can, however, hit home runs.
Chiang's three-run home run sparked Taiwan to a 14-1, 4-inning victory Thursday over Europe champ Ramstein AFB, Germany, in the teams' opener at Volunteer Stadium.
Chiang, disappointed that he failed when manager Cheng-Ta Lee wanted a second-inning bunt with two on and no out, responded to some self-imposed pressure by lining a pitch from Justin Wilson inches over the center-field fence for a 3-0 lead later in the at-bat. It allowed Taiwan to recover from stranding two runners in a scoreless first inning en route to a rout.
"I didn't want to make that mistake again," Chiang said through an interpreter, adding that it was his first career home run.
That was enough to give Taiwan a comfortable lead as it scored six times in the third inning and five more times in the fourth to end the game early. Only an infield error in the bottom of the fourth inning prevented the shutout.
Chun-En Lin earned the victory on his birthday anniversary, allowing one hit while striking out six in 2 2-3 innings. Cheng-Feng Lee pitched 1 1-3 innings of relief. They threw a combined 57 pitches and both can pitch Sunday in the second round against Tokyo.
"I'm happy to be here. I didn't pitch great, but I'm happy enough," Lin said through an interpreter.
Lee managed the Kuei-Shan LL team here in 2009 when it reached the championship game, and he knows what his team is in for the rest of the way should it make it that far. Lin had three RBI from the No. 3 spot in the lineup - he had one hit - while starting cleanup hitter Hung-Yi Wu was 0 for 2 and Cheng-Feng Lee scored twice off one hit.
"I was a little unhappy because our 3-4-5 holes didn't hit well, so we'll practice and pressure those hitters to do better next time," Lee said through an interpreter.
Wilson scored Ramstein's lone run on an infield throwing error, one batter after Nick DeCosta was called out for sliding into first. Ramstein manager Fred Woodberry thought DeCosta simply tripped, and replays supported that notion, but Woodberry didn't want to criticize the umpiring.
"You have to respect his call," Woodberry said. "What he (umpire) says, goes."
For Ramstein, it was a matter of putting the loss behind and turning toward Willemstad, Curacao, Saturday in an elimination game.
"Our scouting report was on-point, and the first inning we dodged a barrage there," Woodberry said. "We got to the second inning and into a little trouble, but their hitters are fantastic. Give them all the credit."
Wilson took the loss, allowing nine runs and seven hits through 2 1-3 innings. Relievers Tyler Woodberry and Justin VanSickle can pitch again Saturday after staying under 35 pitches.
"We still think we can play with any team out here," Fred Woodberry said. "Tomorrow, we'll go to practice, do a few things and get ready to play the Caribbean."