SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — Jay-Dlynn Wiel and Nasir El-Ossais got back-to-back singles off Taiwanese ace Fan Chen-Jun and later scored, leading Curacao to a 2-0 victory over Taiwan on Saturday in the semifinals of the Little League World Series.
Taiwan came into the game having outscored its opponents 25-1 in its three previous outings at the tournament, but Curacao – which lost 9-1 to Taiwan on Wednesday – kept the Taiwanese bats quiet until the Caribbean team broke through.
“I’m very proud of these guys,” Curacao manager Zaino Everett said. “When you put the ball in play, you are going to put some runs on the board. Here we are, international champs.”
Fan came in for the bottom of the fourth to face Curacao’s top of the lineup. Fan hadn’t allowed a hit all tournament, but Jay-Dlynn hit a hard grounder into left field and Nasir followed with a single to right.
After a steal from Jay-Dlynn, Curacao had runners at first and third when Joshua Acosta Fernandez laid down a bunt. The bunt had Fan, third baseman Liu You-An and catcher Chen Kai-Sheng confused on who was covering home and who was taking the ball. Liu took the ball and overthrew Chen, allowing Jay-Dlynn to score.
Chen threw the ball back to Fan, but it was another overthrow and Nasir scored from first, making it a 2-0 game.
“Liu was supposed to field that one,” Taiwan manager Lee Cheng-Ta said. “They were supposed to send it to first base or home base. They made a wrong choice. Even then, after the wrong choice, they made a bad throw. They’re just kids.”
Curacao will play California in the final on Sunday.
Curacao is back in the championship after losing to Hawaii 13-3 in the title game last year. Curacao, an island with a population of just over 150,000, has won the Little League World Series once, in 2004.
It has been the runner-up three times since and has five players and the coaching staff back from last year’s champs of the international bracket. Everett said he came back to win it all.
“Last year, I was here, and I was hungry for it because it was my first time,” Everett said. “It didn’t go so well. We came here, we ate the cake, but we didn’t eat the cherry. Now we got to eat everything.”
Taiwan dominated the LLWS from 1969 to 1996, winning 17 times, but has not won the tournament since. It made the championship in 2009 under Cheng-Ta, who also managed this year’s club.
“Throughout my coaching career, I understand that these are kids,” Cheng-Ta said. “You cannot expect them to be adults or like the MLB. They are not stable, and you can’t put the blame on them. They are just kids.”
Through three innings the starting pitchers dominated. The first hit of the game came in the top of the fourth when Wu Yun-Hsi got Taiwan’s only hit all day as he bunted, the ball popped up between third and home, and no one from Curacao could retrieve it before he ran to first.
Curacao starter Helmir Helmijr threw 5 ⅓ innings, allowing just the one hit and throwing four strikeouts. He left the game after reaching the 85-pitch limit to a standing ovation. Liu allowed no hits and struck out six in starting for Taiwan.
“I was a little nervous, but I felt good,” Helmir said. “I threw strikes where the coach told me to, and it came out good.”
Spencer Ripchik is a student in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State.
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