If Ramon Ballina is going to make it long-term as a closer, he'll need to come up with a better story about why he wears tape around the front of his glasses.
Tell people he took a liner off his face, only to throw the guy out at first.
Tell people he ran headfirst into a 6-foot catcher, only to dislodge the ball and score the game-winning run.
But don't tell people they just broke while taking them off, forcing him to wrap the front left temple of his blue plastic frames with some white tape. If he's going down as a recognized bespectacled closer along the lines of Ryne Duren, Tom Henke or even Kent Tekulve, he'll need a tough-guy story.
But the tough-guy pitching? Ballina had that down pat as he retired the side in the top of the sixth inning for the save as Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, advanced past Asia Pacific champ Taoyuan, Taiwan, 4-3, Monday night at Volunteer Stadium in a Little League Baseball World Series elimination game.
"To tell you the truth, I was nervous," Ballina said through an interpreter. "I just wanted to throw really well. I saw my team is winning and we're into it, and everything was great."
Mexico advanced to play Caribbean champ Willemstad, Curacao, this afternoon.
However, manager Fernando Rios will serve a two-game suspension because Juan Rodriguez did not bat, failing to satisfy minimum play requirements. Rodriguez was due up first in the bottom of the sixth, which was not played.
Little League rules call for a two-game suspension. Rios cannot be at the game or participate in game warmups, though he may participate in team practices. He will be the second manager to serve a suspension, as Aguadulce, Panama manager Luis Gonzalez sat out his team's two wins for a similar offense at the Latin American Regional tournament.
Rios was not available for postgame interviews as he met with the tournament committee. Taiwan manager Cheng-Ta Lee also did not appear in the interview room.
Mexico assistant Cesar Mata said through an interpreter that the team got caught up in the moment and did not realize the possibility of Rodriguez not hitting.
"Unfortunately, this happened, but we will review this and put more attention to detail," Mata said.
Taiwan made Mexico earn it, battling back from a two-run throwing error in the third inning s Cheng-Kai Hu doubled and scored on Chun-Hsaio Chen's single in the fourth.
Chun-En Lin led off the fifth with a single to left but was Taiwan's last baserunner.
Felix Diaz earned the win, allowing three runs on seven hits in 4 1-3 innings.
Cheng-Feng Lee took the loss, striking out 10. Two of the runs allowed were hard-luck and unearned on catcher Feng Chen's throwing error.
Chen charged toward first base instead of trying a pickoff throw as Ballina moved too far off the bag with the bases loaded. Chen appeared to pump fake a throw, but instead spiked the ball and it rolled into the infield dirt, allowing Fernando Benavides and Joel Turrubiates to score.
Gerardo Moreno led off that inning with a double and scored as part of a three-run rally.
Omar Cervantes hit a first-inning home run for Mexico, which tied the score after Lin homered in the top half.
Mata wasn't worried about pitching options after losing Diaz until the weekend with 85 pitches.
"I feel really good about it. Felix is a great pitcher all around, but there are a couple surprises here," Mata said.