Taiwan’s Kueishan Little League team from Taoyuan County qualified for the Little League World Series yesterday, only the third Taiwanese team to qualify for the tournament since it was won by a team from Kaohsiung in 1996.
Taiwan beat Guam 11-0 in only three-and-a-half innings to claim the Asia-Pacific Regional Tournament and win the right to represent the region at the World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, beginning on Aug. 21.
A team composed mostly of players from Kueishan Elementary School romped through Pool A of the competition in the past week, defeating teams from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore and South Korea by a cumulative 60-4, to earn the right to play in the final against Pool B winners Guam.
Taiwan’s Pan Po-chuan helped his team jump out to a quick lead against Guam with a three-run homer in the bottom of the first. An eight-run burst in the bottom of the third left the game’s outcome in little doubt.
Starter Ou Chin yielded only one hit and struck out six in four innings. The game was called after Ou retired Guam in the top of the fourth because Taiwan was leading by more than 10 runs. Little League games normally last six innings.
Kueishan hopes to reverse Taiwan’s recent undistinguished run in international Little League competition. Taiwanese teams have won 17 Little League World Series since 1969, but none since 1996, when Kaohsiung’s Fu Hsing Little League team won the title.
Kueishan coach Li Cheng-ta said that between now and the start of the tournament, his team would need to improve their ability to hit breaking balls, get used to playing at night and prepare for a grass infield.
Li said his hitters had trouble dealing with the Guam starter’s breaking balls in the first two innings of yesterday’s game, a fairly typical pattern that Li attributed to the lack of exposure Little League players in Taiwan get to off-speed pitches.
Only two local Little League baseball tournaments allow their pitchers to throw breaking balls, but no such restrictions exist in international play, said Li, who had junior high school pitchers pepper his players with breaking balls during practice to get them ready for the regional competition.
Li also expressed concern that the field in Williamsport has a grass infield, not common in Taiwan at almost any level.
In northern Taiwan, only Tianmu and Sinjhuang stadiums, which are used to play professional baseball games, have grass infields, and Li said he would like his team to have the chance to practice in either if possible.