SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – The victory lap around Lamade Stadium never gets old for Japan, nor does the players’ ritual of scooping up souvenir dirt near the mound after another Little League World Series triumph.
A perennial power in youth baseball, Japan rallied past Chula Vista, Calif., 6-4 on Sunday to win its ninth title and third in four years, the only disappointment in that recent span a loss in 2011 to Huntington Beach, Calif.
Ryusei Hirooka helped win this one with a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth inning and Shunpei Takagi hit two solo homers for the Tokyo team that was undefeated in the tournament.
Japan manager Masumi Omae, who also led a 2003 team to the World Series title, said, “I definitely always dreamt about coming back to win again. To be able to trust the kids and their abilities is something I’m most proud about.”
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Facing one last threat in the sixth inning, the Japanese players erupted in glee, tossing Omae in the air near the mound after his slick fielders had turned a game-ending double play.
“Wanting to be World Series champs is all we’ve talked about for the last two years,” Takagi said.
It was the 14th championship game for Japan and 23rd for California, which has won seven World Series titles.
Chula Vista left 12 runners on base.
“We left some opportunities out there, but give Japan credit,” manager Rick Tibbett said. “They made some great defensive plays.”
In the consolation game, Tijuana, Mexico, outscored Westport, Conn., 15-14.