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Tokyo Kitasuna Little League manager Youichi Kubo doesn't know many words in English--but "unbelievable" is definitely one of them.
After Ryo Kanekubo's walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning in a 7-4 victory over Pabao (Curacao) Little League, Kubo was eagerly showing off his foreign-language skills as his shortstop rounded the bases.
"I believed in him," said Kubo through a translator. "I didn't think he'd hit a grand slam, but I believed in him. Unbelievable!"
For Japan it was the second straight game they've won with a walkoff home run. The day before Junsho Kiuchi sent home Chinese-Taipei with a dramatic 10th inning home run.
Kanekubo made an unlikely hero in the international final
he had struggled recently to adjust to the high amount of curveballs thrown at himbut a little tinkering with his swing seems to have paid off.
"I missed the ball on several chances the last three days," said Kyle Kanekubo. "The manager told me not to open my hip and legs when I start to swing. Very good advice."
Japan didn't figure to bash their way into the Little League World Series final. Early scouting reports on the team described them as a fundamentally-sound squad with outstanding pitching, if a bit undersized and lacking that big power bat. But Kubo believes his team is a resilient group that makes them very difficult to put away at the end.
"The slogan for this team is ' Never give up,'" said Kubo. "Even as Kanekubo was getting ready for his final at-bat, he was saying, "We can win."
Japanese ace Ryo Ogawa, who kept the game close with four runs allowed over 5 2/3, delivered the understatement of the tournament.
"The mood on the team bench is very nice," said Ogawa.
It should be. Tokyo Kitasuna is just one victory away from becoming the seventh Japanese team to claim the Little League World Series title, and the first since Musashi Fuchu Little League in 2003. Does Kubo, a proponent of spontaneous practice sessions, have anything planned in preparation of Little League World Series final matchup against the U.S. Representative, Warner Robins (Ga.) Little League?
"Nothing special," said Kubo. "We just want to have a good game."
Knowing Tokyo Kitasuna's flair for the dramatic that's exactly what were going to get.
Maybe He Was Looking for a Point Guard
You might have noticed, if you were watching the games on ABC today, a certain Texas Tech basketball by the name of Bobby Knight hanging out near the press box. I'm sure Bobby never likes being quite that close to reporters, but he was a good sport and talked glowingly of Lubbock Western Little League.
"They've done the state proud," said Knight. "I just love coming up here."
No word on whether Knight found any early recruits for his Texas Tech frontcourt.