Mon-Yough falls to Japan, but not without making it interesting

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Emily Harger/Observer-Reporter Okinawa teammates high-five Kenta Nikawadori at the start of their games against Mon-Yough at the Pony League World Series on Monday, August 12.
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Emily Harger / Observer-Reporter
Mon-Yough pitcher Ryan Weaver throws a pitch during the first inning of their game against Okinawa, Japan, in the Pony League World Series Monday. Mon-Yough lost 7-8. Order a Print
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Emily Harger/Observer-Reporter Okinawa hitter Tatsum Higashionna safely runs to 1st base as Mon-Yough first basemen Anthony Winkler catches the ball a second too late during the first inning of the game at the Pony League World Series on August 12. Okinawa beat Mon-Yough even after an unexpected 4-run comeback by Mon-Yough in the last inning of the game.
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Emily Harger/Observer-Reporter The Mon-Yough baseball team celebrates at home plate during the 7th inning of their game against Okinawa, Japan after #10 Jason Cerniglia scored a home run adding 4 runs during the inning. Despite their unexpected comeback in the top of the 7th, Mon-Yough was beat by Okinawa 8-7.
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Emily Harger/Observer-Reporter Okinawa, Japan Head coach Yoshimichi Isa shakes hands with the Mon-Yough coaches at the end of the game on August 12. Despite Mon-Yough's comeback with four runs in the 7th inning, Okinawa beat Mon-Yough 8-7.

Given how the Pony League World Series has gone thus far for Mon-Yough, erasing a five-run deficit in the final inning against Okinawa, Japan, shouldn’t have seemed all that improbable

Few things, after all, are more unlikely to happen than Mon-Yough’s opening-round win, a game where the Host Zone champion scored 10 runs over the final three innings and won, 16-14.

Yet despite pushing across four runs in the final inning and getting the go-ahead run into scoring position with just one out, Mon-Yough couldn’t summon any more magic and dropped an 8-7 decision to the Japanese Monday at Lew Hays Pony Field in Washington Park.

“What can I say,” Mon-Yough coach Scott Callaway said. “They have a flair for the dramatic.”

Trailing 8-3 entering the top of the seventh inning, Mon-Yough got a three-run homer from second baseman Charlie Varriano – a bomb that landed a good 40 feet past the center-field fence – and a solo shot from third baseman Jason Cerniglia.

Center fielder Timmy Labuda then tripled. Right fielder Brandon Cain walked and stole second, giving Mon-Yough runners on second and third with one out.

But first baseman Ben Cole and pitcher Cory Saus grounded out to end the game.

“It was a little tough,” said shortstop Jake Callaway, who finished 2-for-3 with a homer and a double. “It’s a shame that we couldn’t come out with the win. We battled back. We don’t like to quit.”

Monday’s game marked the second consecutive game Japan used a four-run inning to down an opponent after opening with a 5-4 win over Brownsville, Texas, Saturday.

“I always believe in my players,” Japan coach Asao China said through a translator.

Japan will advance and play either Mon-Yough or Bayamon, Puerto Rico, who meet in an elimination game at 10 a.m. today. Japan’s game against the winner starts at 5:30 p.m. today.

Mon-Yough took a 1-0 lead two batters into the game when Callaway poked a pitch the opposite way and deposited it halfway up the hillside beyond the right-field fence for a solo home run.

Japan evened the score in the bottom half when center fielder Kansei Ashitomi doubled the gap in left center.

Mon-Yough jumped ahead again in the second. Cerniglia and Labuda hit back-to-back singles. Cerniglia scored when Japan second baseman Yasuta Miyahira threw wild to first while trying to turn a double play.

Japan tied the score at two when it pushed across a run in the third on a pair of walks and three wild pitches and surged ahead an inning later.

In the four-run fourth, pinch-hitter Tomoki Nako drove a double to the base of the fence to score third baseman Tomohiro Meaawakura.

Japan’s lead grew to 6-2 when left fielder Yuma Tamanaha smashed a two-run double that short-hopped the fence, later scoring on an error charged to Callaway at short.

A wild pitch and another Nako RBI gave Japan some much-needed insurance as Mon-Yough made its patented push, falling just short this time.

“Just a little bit disappointing, but at the same time, what more could you ask to play a team from Japan, you get a chance maybe once in a lifetime,” Scott Callaway said. “These kids never quit. You see we have bats up and down the order. The better team won today. That’s all. They made a few more plays than we did.”

Extra bases

Varriano, Cerniglia and Labuda joined Callaway with multiple hits. Labuda had a single, double and triple. … Tomoya Yara picked up the win with three scoreless innings of relief, striking out six. … Asia-Pacific teams have won nine Pony League World Series titles, all since 1987.

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