Kentucky team advances to face Japan in Little League title game

Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2002

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Zach Osborne pitched unbeaten Louisville, Ky., into the championship game of the Little League World Series. Next up is a Japanese team that's just as perfect.

Osborne struck out 11 and had an RBI double in Louisville's 4-0 victory over Worcester, Mass., in the U.S. championship Saturday night to set up a Sunday finale against undefeated Sendai, Japan.

''Awesome job,'' Worcester manager Fran Granger said of Osborne. ''He kept us off balance all night and kept hitting the corners -- probably one of the best pitching performances of the series.''

Osborne's shot to center field scored the first of Louisville's four runs in the third inning.

''It was curveball, and I just waited on it and came around on it,'' Osborne said of the hit, the first of two he had in the game.

Alex Hornbeck, who reached base when catcher Ryan Griffin obstructed his path after a bunt, came home on Aaron Alvey's sacrifice fly to left field, and Ethan Henry added a two-run homer to right to complete the scoring.

''I thought it was foul when I hit it,'' Henry said of his home run, which was just a few feet inside the foul pole. ''I just ran it out, and the umpire said it was fair. That was real exciting, because we had more runs and it put more pressure on them.''

Louisville, the first Kentucky team to reach the title game, was 5-0 in U.S. play. Sendai, also 5-0, beat Willemstad, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, 4-1 on Saturday in the international final.

Osborne (3-0) had at least two strikeouts in each inning except the fifth, when the first two batters grounded out to the pitcher. He gave up just two hits and one walk, and no Worcester runner made it past first base.

''I know he had 11 strikeouts, and he had four assists on the mound. They kept hitting to him,'' said Louisville manager J. Troy Osborne, the pitcher's father. ''I think we kept them off balance enough that they kept hitting the ball into the ground instead of hitting it into the air.''

Worcester's Frank Flynn (1-2) had nine strikeouts, but gave up three hits, walked one and hit two batters.

Worcester (3-2) will face Willemstad in the third-place game.

Japan 4, Curacao 1

Sendai allowed a run for the first time in the series, but Yuuji Nakane had eight of his 10 strikeouts in the last four innings and finished with a three-hitter.

''Giving up that run was a bit of a shock to us,'' manager Kazutomo Takahashi said.

Rudney Balentien scored for Willemstad (3-2) in the second, reaching on an infield single and scoring on Richently Kenepa's double to center field.

Willemstad failed to advance a runner past first base after that, with Nakane (2-0) striking out two in each of the last four innings.

Sendai is trying to give Japan its second straight title. Last year, Tokyo Kitasuna beat Apopka, Fla., 2-1 in the championship.

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