Chinese Taipei starting pitcher Chu Yi Sheng watched the offensve of Levittown, Puerto Rico, score 12 runs against Corpus Christi, Texas, at Lew Hays Pony Field Friday night and could not help but feel nervous as he prepared to face the hard-hitting team.
As he took his warm up pitches prior to the first inning of Saturday’s game, Chu cleared his mind by focusing on one throw at a time. Forgetting Friday night’s events helped as Chu struck out 12 hitters and hit a mammoth three-run homer in the seventh inning as Chinese Taipei defeated Levittown, 11-1, in the late game Saturday of the Pony World Series.
Chinese Taipei will face Bay County, Mich., Monday at 5:30 p.m. in a winner’s bracket game, while Levittown will face the winner of Corpus Christi and Johnstown Monday at 11 a.m. in an elimination contest.
“(Levittown) is a very strong team,” Chu said. “I saw them yesterday and they were good. I knew I had to calm down to have a chance against them. Being prepared was everything.”
Chu was untouchable through four innings; retiring 12 straight and striking out six. Mixing an inside fastball with a devastating curveball, the left-hander made Levittown’s offense look anything but the dominance it displayed Friday evening.
His counterpart, Levittown pitcher Jorge Benitez, was just as impressive in his Pony League World Series debut. A hard-throwing lefty, Benitez owned the inside part of the plate until his fastball became his downfall in the top of the fourth inning.
Chinese Taipei left fielder Chiu Ta Yu hit a one-out single and two batters later, catcher Tu Wei Hung drilled an inside fastball over the fence in left field for a 2-0 lead.
“We feel great because I know how nervous my kids were,” Chinese Taipei manager Huang Wei Chih said. “The first game is the most difficult because the kids aren’t relaxed yet. Puerto Rico is very strong so this is big for our confidence.”
Levittown right fielder Heliot Ramos, who led all competitors with five home runs in the first round of the tournament’s home run derby Friday morning, led off the fifth inning and finally caught Chu’s breaking pitch. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Chu tossed a curveball on the outside corner that Ramos drilled over the fence in right-center field to cut the deficit to one.
Chinese Taipei answered in the sixth when right fielder Chen Chun Hsiao hit a lead-off double and advanced to third on a wild pitch before second baseman Chiang Zong Ci drew a walk and stole second to force a pitching change for Levittown.
Reliever Hector Perez struck out two straight hitters before intentionally walking Tu to load the bases, but in the following at-bat, Chen took a lead from third and Perez faked a pick-off move. He was called for a balk which led to a run. Chinese Taipei added one more run on a bases loaded walk to take a 4-2 lead.
“He balked. We thought we could take advantage of his large lead and thought it would be an easy out,” Levittown manager Willie Joe Ronda said. “We made mistakes, but you have to give them credit. That pitcher was exceptional. (Benitez) was too, but we didn’t have a chance against (Chu).”
Chinese Taipei ran away with the victory in the seventh with a seven-run, six-hit inning that was capped by their starting pitcher. Chu stepped to the plate with runners on first and third when he hit the first pitch of the at-bat over the fence in right field. The ball sailed to the top of the hill and bounced onto the road leading to the Lew Hays Pony Field.
“When the baseball was halfway there, I knew it was gone,” Chu said. “I’m very excited and very happy. (Puerto Rico) was very, very good.”