CRYSTAL LAKE – Japan center fielder Yuki Inoue was dissatisfied with his body of work at the McHenry County Youth Sports Association Summer International Championships.
That is until the 15U Gold Bracket championship game. There, Inoue grabbed the role of hero and choked it into submission.
Inoue, who had singled twice and scored Japan’s first two runs, led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a double, swiped third base when the PoundTown Spiders turned their backs, and then scored the winning run on Shigehiro’s single for a 3-2 win Sunday at Lippold Park.
Inoue doubled to the left-center field fence, but that wasn’t enough for him. He carefully watched the Spiders, noticed no timeout had been called and stole third base.
“I was concentrating on getting on third base,” Inoue said, with help from an interpreter. “I was following protocol. I was looking for that moment. I was upset at myself for not playing the way I wanted to. I’m really proud of the way I played in this game, especially in the last inning with the pressure in that at-bat.”
Inoue scored all of Japan’s runs, but actually had not been in the lineup some games with his slump.
“It was the runner’s decision,” Japan coach Sadao Nakashiro said. “It was brilliant. He’s the fastest runner on the team.”
The Spiders had rallied in the Sunday’s first game for a 2-1 walk-off victory in the bottom of the seventh. For six innings, they barely touched pitcher Takuta Miura, but Griffin Doersching, who received the Most Valuable Hitter Award, singled, Alec Marsh doubled and Zach Nogalski doubled to stun Japan.
“We lost our first bracket game Wednesday night and had the longest road we could have had,” Spiders coach Cody Smith said. “They battled. They showed exactly what they did the whole tournament. We saw [Miura] was struggling a little with his curveball in the sixth, so we wanted to sit on the fastball. We found some holes.”
The Spiders trailed again, 2-0, in the top of the seventh of the second championship game in the double-elimination tournament. But again they rallied with RBIs from Zach Rothwieler and Chris Zak to tie the score at 2.
Nakashiro stuck with Suzuki, who finished with a three-hitter and kept the Spiders from any more runs. After Inoue’s hit and steal, PoundTown intentionally walked Miura and Kotaro Suno to set up forces at any base.
The Spiders’ Taylor Just struck out Yuto Wakamatsu, but Suzuki, a left-handed hitter, hit a high-hopper over the drawn-in infield for the game-winner.
“I was really concentrating on hitting it hard,” Suzuki said. “I felt really happy about that final hit. I was kind of nervous before the first inning because we lost in an unfortunate way. I was anxious about pitching.”