Japan defeats South Korea

Japan’s Ryusei Fujiwara runs to first base as South Korea’s Jin Won Shin tries to get the out during Sunday’s game at Volunteer Stadium in South Williamsport. (CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette)

A closer look at the 4-1 win by Tokyo Kitasuna LL, Tokyo, Japan over West Seoul LL, Seoul, South Korea Sunday afternoon at Volunteer Stadium.

PLAY OF THE GAME: The final out. Riku Goto’s final strikeout, and the final out of the game, was a perfect representation of Goto’s performance. He got the final South Korean batter to swing at a breaking ball in the dirt for the final out of the game, leading Japan to the final 3 in the International field.

JAPAN PLAYER OF THE GAME: Riku Goto and Japan’s defense. The hard-throwing right-hander earned the complete-game win, giving up just five hits on 88 pitches while striking out seven, including the final batter, and walking just two. He hit the strike zone hard and allowed his defense to make plays behind him, which they did. South Korea put some balls in play, many of which were hit hard, but the Japanese defense held strong, made the tough plays look routine while playing error-less baseball.

SOUTH KOREA PLAYER OF THE GAME: Hosung Lee. The Asia-Pacific starter gave up four runs but he allowed just four hits and struck out four in three innings of work. He gave his team a chance to win and that’s all one can ask for. The South Korean relievers pitched well too as Seong Hyeon Lee threw 1 2/3 innings of perfect baseball while striking out four. Jinwon Shin got the final out for South Korea, giving up one hit and striking out the final Japanese batter.

BIG INNING: Japan’s first and third. With only a combined five runs and eight hits, offense was at a premium but Japan used smart base running and took advantage of some South Korean mistakes as Japan scored two runs in both innings. In the bottom of the first, back-to-back two out singles by Ryota Ono and Yuya Nakajima gave Japan the lead for good. Then in the third, Natsuki Yajima doubled down the left field line, scoring Keitaro Miyahara, making it 3-1. After a groundout, Japan tacked another run on a wild pitch to make it 4-1.

HOME RUNS: There were none.

FLASHING LEATHER: Natsuki Yajima started an inning ending double-play in the top of the second as he scooped up a grounder, stepped on first base for the first out and quickly threw to the shortstop at second base, narrowly getting the runner, for the 3-6 double-play.

Then in the fifth, Japanese shortstop Keitaro Miyahara somehow made the stop on hard-hit, lining grounder and fired it over to first for the second out in the top of the fifth.

WHAT THE ADULTS SAY: “One of the biggest plays was the double-play they pulled when Korea threatened,” said Japanese manager Masanori Takeda through an interpreter. “And after scoring two more insurance runs, we believed that changed the momentum of this game.”

WHAT THE KIDS SAY: “I always wanted to be a Little League World Series champion so there wasn’t much pressure for me,” said Japanese catcher Dong Heon Kim through an interpreter. “I joined so I could be a part of this.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Asia-Pacific falls to 2-1 and plays today at 1 p.m. at Volunteer Stadium against Mexico. Japan doesn’t play until Wednesday, when it takes on Canada at 3 p.m. at Lamade Stadium for a chance to go to the international final.