Following an untimely error, clutch hits and a bout of wildness, Taiwan were cruelly ousted from the Little League World Series on Tuesday after victory had nearly been assured.
Playing their second elimination game in two days, Chung-Ping Little League from Taoyuan County seemed poised to again survive being eliminated, taking a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the sixth against Latin America representatives Aguadulce Cabezera Little League from Panama.
Even after pitcher Yu Teng-hao yielded a walk and a one-out double, things seemed under control when he struck out Daniel Fernandez, leaving Taiwan one out away from victory.
However, Yu then walked Juan Crisp on a full count to load the bases and when third baseman Yeh Tung-jua booted a ground ball that should have been the final out, Taiwan no longer had any margin for error.
Nursing a 7-5 lead with the bases still loaded, Yu yielded a two-RBI single, then walked another batter to reload the bases and hit Jose Gonzalez to send home the winning run in a shocking finish that left some of the young players in tears.
Taiwan fought back from a 4-0 first-inning deficit with a run in the second and a six-run rally in the third, but it was ultimately not enough.
The team from Taoyuan opened the double-elimination tournament in Sotuh Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a 10-2 win over Canada.
They proceeded to lose 3-2 to Japan, before managing to stay in contention on Monday with a 6-4 win over a team from Puerto Rico.
Taiwan’s coach talked about the important experience gained during the tournament.
“We have learned how the American people love baseball and we can bring this experience back to Taiwan to improve our baseball environment,” Lee Kuo-chiang was quoted as saying on the tournament’s Web site.
Once dominant in the competition, Taiwan have not won a Little League World Series title since 1996.
Another Taiwanese team from Taoyuan were the runners-up in 2009 and a team from Kaohsiung finished third in 2010 after losing an extra-innings heartbreaker to Japan in the international championship.