Alexander Vasquez wasn’t ready to go home.
So, despite giving up one run in the second inning against Okinawa, Japan, Tuesday in the Pony League World Series, Vasquez, the starting pitcher for Bayamon, Puerto Rico, insisted that was it. No more.
He’d keep the Japanese bats quiet, his team would scrap together a few runs, and the Puerto Ricans would force an “if necessary” game this morning.
Sure enough, Vasquez didn’t allow another run, Puerto Rico pushed two across in the sixth, and Bayamon extended its stay another night with a 2-1 victory over Japan at Lew Hays Pony Field in Washington Park.
“I just pitched and pitched and pitched and said, ‘They’re not going to get any more.’ ” said Vasquez, who pitched seven innings, allowing one run on 10 hits with one walk and four strikeouts. “My team backed me up. They gave me two runs. That’s all I needed.”
Puerto Rico’s win means a one-loss team will make tonight’s 7 p.m. championship game – whoever wins this morning.
“They had a real nice game, but when you lose, you lose,” Japan coach Asao China said through a translator. “You have to get over it and get going next time. We’re going to have a game (today).”
The sixth inning started with a single from left fielder Kristopher Gonzalez, who gave way to pinch-runner Javier Sanchez. Sanchez moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, then reached third on a pickoff attempt that Japan reliever Tomoya Yara tossed into center field.
He scored when the next batter, second baseman Jose Mendez, grounded to third, and Japan catcher Keiya Kinjo bobbled the throw. Mendez would score on the single by Rivera.
“Never gave up,” Puerto Rico coach Carlos Melendez said through a translator. “I believed in my team and my defense. I knew they were going to come through. The runs came in, thank God.”
Yuma Tamanaha started for the third game in a row and gave the Japanese three scoreless innings, allowing four hits and a walk while striking out eight.
Japan scored its run in the second inning after second baseman Tomoki Nako singled, moved into scoring position on a fielder’s choice and came across on shortstop Takato Nakamoto’s shot up the middle.
Three consecutive singles with one out in the fourth loaded the bases for Japan, but Vasquez wiggled out of trouble when he struck out Tamanaha and third baseman Kidany Salva snagged a liner hit by Tatsumi Higashionna.
Bayamon had a chance in the third, but as center fielder Mario Feliciano tried to score on a single to center to Gonzalez, Japan’s Kansei Ashitomi fired a strike that Nakamoto relayed home to nail Feliciano at the plate, ending the inning.
“Game of the year,” Melendez said. “A lot of defense, good pitching. That’s what made the difference.”
Nako and Nakamoto had two hits apiece for Japan. … Gonzalez had two hits for Puerto Rico, which got fine defensive plays from shortstop Jose Miranda and Mendez. … Yara took the loss after giving up two runs on four hits in three innings.