Japan wins 2011 Cal Ripken World Series

Japan's complete dominance on the baseball field was put on hold Sunday for an hour and thirty minutes, but it was only delaying the inevitable.

Following a lengthy holdup to the start of the game because of thunderstorms, Japan used stellar pitching and its always seemingly error-free defense to win the 2011 Cal Ripken World Series Championship Sunday afternoon at Cal Sr.'s Yard.

Japan scored runs in four of the six innings, while three pitchers held United States champion Southeastern Lexington, Kentucky, to one hit in a 7-0 Japan victory.

The win finished off a perfect 8-0 record for Japan, which was making its fifth appearance in the series.

Japanese team captain Ryoken Nakanishi said through translator Ty Date: "I was confident that we would win the tournament and they wanted to win for the host families, to show them appreciation for hosting them for the past two weeks."

Nakanishi and his Japan teammates got off to a fast start in the first inning when Daisuke Sowa hit a one-out single to right.

Sowa stole base on what was also a passed ball he could have been at third when Kentucky catcher Ben Wilcoxson could not locate the ball. Regardless, Sowa scored from second on Kosuke Nagata's ground-rule double to dead center field.

Nagata then stole third, one of 10 stolen bases for Japan, and scored on a wild pitch, which was also ball four to Jin Matsuda.

With Matsuda trying to steal second base, however, Sora Morimoto lined into a double play to shortstop Kaelen Covington, who gloved the soft liner and threw to first to double off Matsuda.

Japan was back at it again in the second, scoring two more runs.

Taisei Takeoka fueled the rally with a leadoff single and a steal of second and third rather easily. Nakanishi then hit a RBI single to center and moved to second when the ball slipped by center fielder James "Jab" Bryant.

Nakanishi moved to third on a groundout and then scored on another groundout off the bat of pinch hitter Takumi Okada to give Japan a 4-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Kentucky had a base runner in each of the first two innings but couldn't capitalize.

Austin Dick had a one-out single in the first and a stolen base. Dick, however, was thrown out at third by Japan starting pitcher Ryuki Urano when he headed for third before Urano started his wind-up.

C.J. Bush had a leadoff walk for Kentucky, the tournament's Ohio Valley representative, in the second, but a fielder's choice and two strikeouts got Urano out of the inning, his last of the game.

Zach Bryant took over for Bush on the Kentucky mound to start the third. A leadoff walk to Sowa hurt, as Bryant balked him to second and then Sowa stole third.

Sowa then came home with the fifth run on Matsuda's sac fly to left field.

Kazuki Sakurai took over in relief for Japan and it was lights out from there.

Sakurai faced nine batters over three innings, striking out eight, including six straight. Kainen Bibb was the lone Kentucky player to hit the ball, grounding out to short to end Sakurai's first inning of work.

Zach Bryant settled down for Kentucky to pitch scoreless baseball in the fourth and fifth innings, but a little bad luck for the Kentucky hurler allowed Japan to scratch out two more runs in the sixth.

Bryant had Hayate Nakatsuji struck out for the second out, but the ball was not caught and Nakatsuji reached base safely.

Following a Nakatsuji stolen base, Nakanishi hit a line drove single into center, where Jab Bryant had the ball bounce past him, all the way to the wall. By the time the ball was retrieved, Nakatsuji and Nakanishi were across home plate with the game's final two runs.

Reo Matsuo came on to pitch the final inning for Japan, retiring the side in order on two ground balls sandwiched around a fly ball to right field.

Takeoka and Nakanishi were the two Japan players to have two hits in the game, in what was truly a team effort for the series champions.

"We said from our first practice that we wanted to make it to the championship game of the United States bracket," Kentucky manager Donnie Covington said following the game. "We went on and on through districts, states and regionals and we got there, and on top of that, we won it. This was a bonus game for us."

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