Two days after throwing a no-hitter, Japan knocks out eight hits in a 6-1 win over Mexico

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — The best international team of this century, Japan hasn’t made the Little League World Series championship since 2017.

Early in this year’s tournament, it’s looking as if the Japanese could be back. Japan has won its first two games, capturing the victories in very different ways.

Behind six innings of no-hit ball on Wednesday, Japan beat Cuba 1-0 – despite getting just one hit of its own.

On Friday, Japan knocked out eight hits in a 6-1 victory over Mexico. Japan loaded the bases and scored at least a run in every inning from the first through the fourth.

“I’m usually telling the kids that they have to make contact with the bat,” manager Toyo Hirooka said through a translator. “I don’t try to change the mentality of the kids, I just keep things as usual.”

Japan has claimed seven LLWS championships since 2000. Only three other international teams have won over that span – Venezuela, Curacao and South Korea – none more than once.

This year’s Japanese representative, Tokyo’s Musashi Fuchu Little League, won the LLWS in 2003 and 2013. If the club’s first two games suggest anything, it’s that Musashi Fuchu could have the ability to continue its once-every-decade run.

“If you pitch a perfect game against Japan, it’s still gonna be hard to beat them,” Mexico manager Francisco Fimbres said through a translator. His club went through four pitchers against Japan.

For the Japanese, Hinata Uchigaki started Wednesday, tallying 13 strikeouts and walking three in five no-hit innings. When Hinata reached his pitch-count limit, Akito Masuda preserved the no-hitter.

Hinata also has some success at the plate. He scored Japan’s only run Wednesday, and against Mexico he was walked and later scored, then doubled in the fifth inning – though he was stranded at third.

Akito got the start Friday and allowed just three hits in 3 1/3 shutout innings before Yohei Yamaguchi and Yuzuki Matsumura closed out the game without allowing a hit.

“We have eight pitchers that are on the same level,” Hirooka said.

Still, it won’t get easier for the Japanese.

After two days’ rest, Japan will play Monday against Taiwan, which completed the eighth perfect game in LLWS history on Thursday, a 6-0 victory over Canada.

The Taiwanese, by the way, were the international team of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, winning 17 titles. Overall, Japan’s got 11.


Seth Engle is a student in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State.


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