Game 19
Asia-Pacific 4
Mexico 2

Tuesday, August 21, 2007
8:00PM ET

Seeing Double
Mexico drops Game One of its Wednesday doubleheader, 4-2 to Chinese Taipei, making tonight’s Game Two a must-win situation

By Allie Weinberger
Special Correspondent

The Asia-Pacific champs just made Mexico’s day much harder.

In Game One of the first doubleheader ever scheduled at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Penn., the Mexico champs from Seguro Social Little League dropped a heartbreaker to Chinese Taipei, 4-2, in front of 3,300 at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

Now sitting at 1-1 in Pool D, Mexico must defeat 2-0 Venezuela in tonight’s 7 p.m. nightcap to keep its hopes of advancing alive. The loss to Li-Shing Little League vaulted Asia-Pacific’s record to 2-1, and a Mexico victory tonight would create a three-way tie for just two international semifinal slots.

“We still have a lot of pitching and we just have to mentally prepare to just win,” said manager Andres Martinez through an interpreter.

“The pressure’s gonna be there no matter what, but I think this game was a lesson to us to get mentally prepared for tonight’s game, because we know the importance of it.”

While it was the starting pitching of Chinese Taipei’s Chi-Yuan Chen and Mexico’s Antonio Pantoja that stood out this afternoon, the difference came in which team’s offense could make the opposing pitcher pay for the few mistakes he did make.

Leadoff man Kai-Ying Chen led off the game with a long solo shot, taking a quick 1-0 lead before Pantoja found his happy place, striking out the side.

“Because I am leadoff, first of all I am just trying to hit the ball, looking for the best pitch so the team can push the runner forward,” said Kai-Ying Chen through an interpreter. “I feel really good.”

But Pantoja wouldn’t give up another hit until the fourth, when Jen-Chieh Lui took a two-run shot deep to left field and upped the score to 4-0. While it was the second – and last – hit allowed by the Mexico hurler, the champs from Chinese Taipei cashed in on a pair of walks – one in the third and the other two batters before Lui’s homerun – to get to 4-0.

Pantoja closed out the side in the fourth with a strike out to Ko-Lun Yeh, an at bat that left him just one toss shy of the 85-pitch limit.

“It was great performance, and it was expected from him,” said Martinez. “[The homeruns were] unfortunate, but it was expected of Antonio to have a great performance.”

Chen likewise struggled in his half of the fourth, allowing Cesar Maldonaldo an RBI double that scored pinch hitter Daniel Rosales from second (an error and a wild pitch put him there). The hurler got Alex Dominguez and Adrian Aguilar to strikeout and ground out, respectively, to end the inning, but not before the double made it a 4-1 game.

The 4-1 score moved to 4-2 an inning later when Julio Espinoza scored on a wild pitch.

Chinese Taipei’s four runs came amid 11 strikeouts by Pantoja, their second coming in the top of the third, when the Mexico pitching-catching tandem of Pantoja and Daniel Benitez gift wrapped the a 2-0 score for nine-hole hitter Ko-Lun Yen, giving him first on a walk and the remaining 180 feet on three consecutive passed balls.

The fourth-inning walk to Chao-Min Wan and homerun were the insurance for the 4-2 win.

Pantoja struck out the side three times, allowing just a pair of walks in a losing effort.

His Chinese Taipei counterpart also excelled on the mound, gathering seven strikeouts in 4.2 innings while allowing a trio of walks. Chen carried a no-no into the third, when a two-out single – a line drive into left field from third baseman Julio Espinoza – spoiled the bid.

But with just one out in the bottom of the sixth, Mexico threatened a comeback. With two on base and the go-ahead run at the plate, it was Diego Briseno’s chance to play hero – a role he was just feet from filling. The leadoff hitter slugged a huge fly ball out to left field.

As the Chinese Taipei outfield sprinted back toward the wall, the Seguro Social Little Leaguers held their breath. But as 14 sets of eyes followed left fielder Chun-Jen Cheng to the warning track, the left fielder reeled in the final out for a 4-2 final.

“Each one of us thought it was out,” said Martinez.

Good thing they have tonight to try again.


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