Managers stick with players to the bitter end

Say this for both Asia-Pacific Region champ Taoyuan, Taiwan, manager Lee Kuo-Chiang and Latin America Region champ Aguadulce, Panama, manager Luis Gonzalez – they both believed in their players until the end.

Lee believed in reliever Yu Teng-Yao, even as Yu struggled to save what looked like a victory in Tuesday’s game at Lamade Stadium that Panama won, 8-7.

Yu relieved starter Yeh Tung-Jua after he reached the pitch limit in the fifth inning, issuing a walk before striking out the last two batters to strand two base runners with a 7-4 lead.

Panama then loaded the bases on Yu after a two-out walk, before Edgardo Rosales’ slow chopper bounced toward Yeh, who’d moved to third. But Yeh mishandled it, allowing a run to score instead of preserving a victory with an out. A two-run single followed, then a walk and the decisive hitting by Yu of batter Jose Gonzalez that resulted in the game-winning run being forced in.

Yu was one of a few Taiwan players appearing to fight back tears while the game still went on, creating the kind of pictures about kids crying in baseball games in front of thousands to a TV audience that make some people uncomfortable.

Lee wasn’t one of them, as he said he never considered lifting Yu.

“I believe in all my players and I believe he can do his best,” Lee said through an interpreter. “Right now, he has already learned a lot from this game and it will directly help him in the future.”

Those paying attention after the game not only saw a few more Taiwan tears, but they also saw some of the Panama players cry in the company of the Taiwan kids.

“Even our guys were crying. It’s a great game and they’re kids, and you can expect that,” Gonzalez said through an interpreter. “And yes, I saw some of our kids embrace them.”

Gonzalez also expected his team to rally Tuesday, and perhaps for good reason. On Monday, Panama bounced back from a 13-0 loss to Tijuana, Mexico, to defeat Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 12-0, just to reach Tuesday’s game.

“This wasn’t the first time we’d done this,” said Gonzalez, who also brought the Municipal De Tijuana League to the 2012 LLWS. “It happened before to us in the Latin America series. We just said it’s not over until the last out, and all we needed to do was get runners on base. Eventually, someone gets a hit to win the game.”

Gonzalez said this year’s team had gone 26-2, and its biggest deficit was a two-run rally vs. Venezuela. So even though big swings are normal in many regular-season Little League games, they were new to this team.