International baseball power Japan is back in a very familiar and comfortable position: World Champions.
Japan played a nearly flawless game Saturday night to win the 2016 Cal Ripken World Series Championship, beating United States champion, Kennewick, Wash., 7-0, at Cal Sr.'s Yard in Aberdeen.
"Simply, I'm pretty happy about this and this is a whole team effort," Japan manager Katsumi Sekiguchi said with translation aid from coach Ty Date. "Awesome players, awesome family members, awesome host families, this is a whole team effort to get championship."
Japan pitching dominated the Washington hitters, limiting them to two hits, while recording 11 strikeouts.
Keito Matsuura tossed four innings of two hit ball, striking out nine. Reliever Hiroki Hayashi worked two hitless innings, striking out two.
"I kind of struggled on putting it on the spots on the control side, so I used the curve ball to change in order to adjust the control. It worked out very well," Matsuura said.
Japan, meanwhile, wasted no time in getting its offense rolling, banging out three singles in the top of the first and scoring a pair of runs.
Hirotaka Saitoh led off with a single and Soshi Yoshino followed with a high chopper off the glove of Washington third baseman Ivan Palomino.
Ryoma Ikeda hit a shallow pop fly foul that first baseman Gage Ackerman fielded, but Saitoh tagged up on the catch and raced home with the first run.
Kairi Matsumura, the pitching hero in the International Championship win over Puerto Rico, added a line drive single up the middle to plate Yoshino with the second run.
Matsumura, who was named the International's Most Valuable Player, added a two-run single in the third and to that point, there was no display of power.
Japan, however, brought out the extra-base hits against Washington reliever Cash Hailey in the fourth.
Kenta Nozaki greeted Hailey with a long home run to right-center field and an out later, Mikuta Katayama (2-for-2) and Keito Matsuura hit back-to-back doubles to push the lead to 6-0.
Matsumura (2-for-2) added his fourth RBI of the night in the fifth, hitting a sacrifice fly that scored Ikeda. Ikeda had singled and was at third on an errant pickoff attempt.
Washington's Simeon Howard hit a first inning double for his 13th hit of the series. That is a Cal Ripken Word Series record for most hits in a series.
"It feels good. At first I didn't know I even had that many hits and then everybody was like you're tied for that record and I was like, oh for real," Howard said about his record.
Ivan Palomino had the other hit for Washington, a third inning single.
Myles Mayovsky, the first of four Washington pitchers, took the loss in three innings on the mound.
"Our main focus was to get a six-inning game in, not get 10-runned and hopefully put some runs on the board," Washington manager Bryan Knapik said. "7-0, I'm happy with. That's by far the best team we've played."