Japan's dominance at the Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series was on display again Sunday as the international power won its third straight World Championship at Cal Sr.'s Yard in Aberdeen.
West Raleigh, N.C., tried to do what no U.S. team has been able to the past two years, but Japan's players would have none of it.
The international juggernaut pounded West Raleigh pitching for 15 hits (seven for extra bases) and 11 runs en route to an 11-1, five-inning win in the World Series Championship Game.
"I really don't think it's a dynasty, we are not dominating any," Japan manager Koji Okumura said through translator Ty Date. "It was a very tough tournament, especially in the international."
Unlike last year, Japan did suffer a loss in pool play this year, losing to Dominican Republic, 9-8, on Wednesday. Japan avenged that loss with a 4-2 semifinal win two days later.
"They're going to hit the ball hard and put the pressure on you and pitch well," West Raleigh manager Tyler Highfill said.
Japan did both, scoring in every inning but the third, while limiting West Raleigh to four hits in the game and a single run in the bottom of the third.
"I thought Victor [Vargas] came out and threw very well for three innings. He kept them off balance pretty good, they got a couple shots in there, the grass got slick and we kicked a few around and that's a little uncharacteristic," Highfill said.
Good, bad bounces
Vargas, the starting West Raleigh pitcher, and his teammates, benefited from a good bounce to open the game, but he suffered on another bounce a batter later.
Japanese leadoff hitter Yuma Fujiwara drilled a shot off the right-center field wall, but the carom was played right to West Raleigh center fielder Tucker Jackson.
Jackson threw a perfect strike to shortstop Ryan Sholar to cut Fujiwara down.
Mizuki Kataoka, however, hit the next Vargas offering into the hole at shortstop. West Raleigh's Sholar, in an effort to keep the ball in the infield, dove to his right and deflected the ball away from oncoming left fielder Jeff Griffin.
By the time Griffin redirected himself and got to the ball, Kataoka was around second and cruising into third base with a triple.
Vargas struck out the next batter, Akito Shozu, but the inning continued as Yu Inaba lashed a 3-2 pitch into left field to score Kataoka.
Japan's additional scoring was lumped into multiples as three runs crossed the plate in the second; four more in the fourth and three in the fifth.
Japan's second inning started so innocently with Vargas striking out Kenta Tanaka. Ryugo Komachi, though, fueled the three-run rally, belting a full count pitch, high and well over the right field wall.
Taisei Akimaru followed with a double and moved to third on Yudai Yamamoto's sacrifice bunt. Fujiwara then added his second hit of the game, plating Akimaru.
The inning should have ended on a Kataoka grounder to short, but Sholar dropped the ball before he could throw it, allowing Fujiwara to score the unearned and fourth run.
West Raleigh's offense, meanwhile, was stymied by good defensive play from Japan.