SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Noriatsu Osaka hit three homers and tripled, and Japan limited Tennessee’s potent lineup to two hits in a 12-2 victory Sunday in the Little League World Series title game.
Starter Kotaro Kiyomiya struck out eight in four innings and added an RBI single for the boys from Tokyo. The game ended in the fifth after Osaka’s third homer made it a 10-run game.
A day after pounding out a 24-16 win over California in the U.S. title game, the Goodlettsville, Tenn., sluggers could only muster two hits — solo homers by Brock Myers and Lorenzo Butler.
The teams exchanged the customary postgame handshakes at the plate before Japan received the World Series championship banner.
Japan slugged five homers Sunday, including Rintaro Hirano’s three-run shot to make it 10-1 in the fourth.
That was more than enough offense for 13-year-old ace Kiyomiya, who had a fastball clocked in the high-70s, The right-hander with the hitch in mid-delivery pitched like a big-league ace in allowing just one hit.
Regardless, this is still a banner year for Goodlettsville after its exhausting victory Saturday over Petaluma, Calif., for the U.S. championship. That game set a record for most combined runs in the World Series.
Tennessee lost a 10-run lead in the bottom of the sixth before scoring nine times the next inning to finally put away Petaluma in a Little League classic. Even more impressively, Butler had three homers and a record nine RBIs — a feat so unique the 12-year-old’s name became a trending topic on Twitter.
Butler went deep again off reliever Osaka in the fifth — Butler’s fourth homer in two days — to cut the lead to 10-2 and give Goodlettsvile some home hope. Tennessee’s mini-mashers have proven they can break out any time at the plate.
Its pitching depth sapped, Tennessee turned to right-hander Justin Smith to start against Japan — the first time the 12-year-old had started in the World Series or in Southeast regional tournament.
Leadoff hitter Osaka didn’t waste any time with a first-pitch triple to right-field corner in the first. Kiyomiya delivered his RBI single two batters later to get the scoring started.
Osaka then homered in the second to left-center, just in front of the “Little League” sign above the fence, before leading off the fourth with his second homer, this time to center, for a 6-1 lead.
The Kitasuna league all-star team from Tokyo won Japan’s eighth Little League title and second in three seasons.
Smith pitched admirably in a tough spot, allowing five runs and seven hits over three innings while striking out three. His team was trying to make Tennessee history as the first team from the state to win youth baseball’s biggest prize.
Goodlettsville also was the first Tennessee squad to advance to South Williamsport since Morristown in 1987. The suburban Nashville team counts among its fans Rays ace David Price, who is from Murfreesboro.