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Japan will face Kentucky in title game of Ripken World Series today

Japan continued its dominance at the 2011 Cal Ripken World Series Saturday, claiming the International Championship with a 10-3 win over the Dominican Republic Saturday at Cal Sr.'s Yard.

Equally impressive, however, was Ohio Valley Champion Lexington, Kentucky's 10-0 whitewash of previously unbeaten Oahu, Hawaii, in the U.S. Championship game also played at Cal Sr.'s Yard Saturday.

Japan and Lexington will meet Sunday for the 2011 World Championship in the tournament for 11 and 12 year-olds played on 70-foot diamonds under the auspices of Babe Ruth Baseball.

Sunday's championship game begins at 2 p.m. at Cal Sr.'s Yard.

Kentucky squad powers way to U.S. title

Lexington was dominant in Saturday's U.S. Championship, scoring early and often in running out to a 10-0 lead over the Pacific Southwest champs from Hawaii.

The game was called after four innings under the 10-run mercy rule.

Lexington started the contest with a bang, scoring twice in the opening frame before Hawaiian team could record an out.

Kainen Bibb led off the inning with a walk, which brought to the plate pitcher Austin Dick, who took the first pitch for a strike, then rocketed the next offering he saw over the left field wall for a two-run home run.

The Kentucky squad might have done more first inning damage, but with two men on and two down, Hawaiian center fielder Nicholas Benner made an over-the-shoulder, running catch of James "Jab" Bryant's long fly ball.

In the top half of the second, Lexington extended its lead to 6-0 with a three-run outburst.

Kicking things off was Zach Bryant, who reached on a walk and then moved over to second on a wild pitch.

Two outs later, Bibb earned a base on balls, and another wild pitch allowed both runners to move up a base, putting both in scoring position.

After Dick walked next to load the bags, Kaelen Covington knocked Zach Bryant home with a single up the middle, and C.J. Bush followed with a two-RBI single to right.

Aidan Elias then came through with the third consecutive two-out single, pushing Covington across the plate for Lexington's sixth tally.

The winners got two more runs in the third, as Zach Bryant led off with a triple to center, and Parker McCoy followed with a shot to the berm beyond the left field wall.

Lexington saw its third two-run homer in the fourth inning, as Zach Bryant blasted a shot to the deepest part of the ballpark with Bush on base, making the score 10-0.

Needing to score one run to avoid having the game end early, Hawaii worked Dick for a one-out single and a walk in the bottom of the fourth inning, but the Lexington starter got out of the jam with a game-ending 5-3 double play.

Over four innings of work, Dick struck out three, walked two and held Hawaii to six hits.

Zach Bryant led the way for Lexington, going 2-for-2 with three runs scored, including his two-run homer and triple.

Ryne Yashamiro was the lone Hawaii hitter with multiple hits, going 2-for-2.

Timely hitting, fielding propel Japan to final

Kosuke Nagata had two hits and drove in five runs to put Japan in Sunday's Cal Ripken Series World Championship contest, as Japan ran its record to 7-0 in the tournament.

Japan went right to work in the bottom of the first inning, taking advantage of control issues by Dominican starter Huascar Inoa.

Inoa walked the first two batters, Masaharu Niwa and Daisuke Sowa, each on five pitches. Nagata then made Inoa pay, hitting a high drive toward the deepest part of Cal Sr.'s Yard, right in front of the 263-foot mark.

Dominican center fielder Gilberto Celestino was unable to catch the drive, which bounced off the wall behind him and rolled back toward the infield. Niwa and Sowa both scored and Nagata stood at third with a triple. Nagata then scored the third Japan run of the in inning on a Sora Morimoto RBI single.

A failed squeeze on two strikes was turned into a inning-ending double play by the Dominican Republic.

Japan's Hayate Nakatsuji tried to bunt the third strike, but he missed and catcher Alejandro Guerrero alertly fired to third baseman Oscar Vergez to catch Morimoto in a pickle. Morimoto advanced to third on a wild pitch and groundout by Taisei Takeoka. Two throws back and forth between Guerrero and Vergez resulted in Vergez tagging out Morimoto.

Japan starting pitcher Takeoka had his own bit of trouble in the second after a perfect first inning. Takeoka walked leadoff hitter Vergez, and Henry Pujols followed with a hit-and-run single that moved Vergez to third and brought Kazuki Sakurai into the game as a relief pitcher.

Inoa greeted Sakurai with a grounder to shortstop Kosuke Morita, who took the force out on Pujols at second unassisted, while Vergez cruised home with the run.

Vergez took over on the mound for Dominican Republic in the second and escaped with no damage, but in the third, Daisuke Sowa led off with a double and reached third when left fielder Inoa's throw was high and bounced out of play. A Nagata sac fly plated Sowa for a 4-1 lead through three innings.

Sowa added an RBI on a walk, and Nagata hit a two-run double as Japan added three more runs in the fourth to increase its lead to 7-1.

Dominican Republic put together a two-run rally in the fifth, fueled by a Alejandro Guerrero leadoff single. A stolen base and groundout pushed Guerrero to third, and Gilberto Celestino drew a two-out walk.

With Juan Espinal at bat, Celestino attempted to steal second, but Japanese catcher Morimoto faked to second and appeared to have Guerrero picked off third.

Morimoto's throw, however, was not gloved by third baseman Niwa, allowing Guerrero and Celestino to both score.

Japan then closed out the scoring with three more runs in the bottom of the inning. Ryuki Urano and Niwa each drove in a run, while the final run scored on a double steal.

The Japan defense, which has been stellar all week, closed out the win with a crafty double play.

Pujols grounded out to third and on the play, Yasser Castillo, who was aboard with a single and at second on a passed ball, tried to move to third. Japan first baseman Ryoken Nakanishi fired back across to shortstop Kosuke Morita at third, who put the game-ending tag on Castillo.

Sakurai was credited with the win, striking out six over three innings of work. Inoa, the first of four Dominican pitchers, was tagged with the loss, giving up three runs on two hits and two walks. Inoa also struck out one batter.

Check back with for more updates and scores from Championship Weekend at the 2011 Cal Ripken World Series.

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