The boys from Kitasuna are on a roll.
The Tokyo-based Little League squad, which cruised through the Japan regional tournament last month, has kept things going in Wiliamsport, riding three straight victories to nab a spot in the International Championship on Saturday.
After adding a bit of drama to Wednesday night’s semi, Kitasuna will return to the field one win away from a title. First pitch is slated for 12:30 p.m. ET. Here’s what you need to know about the squad:
1. Kitasuna Was Down To Its Last Strike on Wednesday
This one got dramatic.
Kitasuna was down to its last strike on its last out in the bottom of the sixth-inning. It was over. The team would record its first loss of the 2015 Little League World Series. Except that’s not what happened. Instead, Kitasuna rallied; twice.
Shingo Tomita tied the game 2-2 with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the sixth but Venezuela came back to hit back-to-back homers in the top of the eighth. Still, Kitasuna would not give up. The team from Tokyo pulled out the victory with a pair of doubles, a single and intentional walk, setting up Yugo Aoki’s bases-loaded single to earn the walkoff victory.
2. Kengo Tomita Has Been Dominant All Tournament
Although Japan’s bats have been consistent throughout the Series, there has been one in particular that has stood out. Kengo Tomita has been the quiet – and powerful leader – for Kitasuna throughout the squad’s stint in Williamsport.
He had his breakout game on August 21 when he racked up two home runs and one single against Chinese Taipei as Kitasuna cruised to a 7-5 victory.
3. This Is the Third Time Kitasuna Has Represented Japan in the LLWS
For the third time in four years and the second year in a row, Kitasuna Little League is representing the Japan Region in the Little League World Series. Kitasuna defeated Hachioji in the championship of the two-day regional round in July.
Kitasuna first competed in Wiliamsport in 2011, the same year that the Little League World Series expanded to 16 teams. This will be the fifth appearance in 15 years for the organization, which won the Championship in 2001 and 2012 as well as notching a runner-up finish in 2007.
Last year the team from Kitasuna finished with three victories and two losses, with its tournament run ended by eventual World Series Champions, Seoul Little Leauge.
4. Japanese ‘Baseball Moms’ Have Very Specific Team-Related Roles
Karne Noll wrote a detailed explanation of the role that mothers have with Little League baseball teams in Japan, that includes Kitasuna. Noll’s children played for Musashi Fuchu Little League but many of the same traditions that influence that squad have come to shape Kitasuna as well.
Noll wrote in the Japan Times:
I am amazed at how entrenched gender roles have been in my 11 years with this baseball community. Twelve years ago, women did not walk on the baseball field unless serving tea. And now, in 2015, we still do not walk on the field unless serving tea. No one seems to want to see change in gender roles here. And few even want to talk about it.
According to Noll, baseball moms do tōban once a month, which basically translates to on-duty. When a mother is on duty she is “on” all day and cannot leave until after practice has been declared finished. The concentration of tōban is serving, providing beverages for coaches and players, making lunches and keep track of the ice.
5. Kitasuna’s Bats Have Been Tremendous This Summer
Here are some numbers for you. Heading into the Little League World Series, riding four straight victories in the regional round, Kitasuna had outscored its opponents 44-4. That is not a typo.
Forty-four to four, including a 20-run performance against Haciouji on July 20.
As if that weren’t enough, Kitasuna didn’t allow a run in its first two games of the regional round. The bats have slowed down, ever so slightly, in the World Series, but Kitasuna has still found a way to consistently get on the board. Coming into the International Championship, the representatives from Japan are not only 3-0 but they’ve out-scored opponents 15-to-10. The closest game Kitasuna has played? The walk-off victory over Mexico on Wednesday night.
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