SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — Curacao didn’t do much at the plate Saturday, knocking out just three hits.
But behind 4 2/3 innings of shutout ball from Reangelo Decaster, a few defensive gems and Jaydion Louisa’s pinch-hit dribbler, the Caribbean team beat Taiwan 1-0 to move on to the Little League World Series championship.
Reangelo was “perfect,” Curacao manager Zaino Everett said. “He kept the ball down and threw good curveballs because they have good bats. A good inside and outside mix helped him get outs.”
Curacao will play Sunday against either Hawaii or Tennessee, who were to play later in the day.
Reangelo got some help as he worked out of a first inning jam, thanks to a flyout and a groundout with Liao Yuan-Shu on third. In the fourth, left fielder Jaythan Cordilia ran down and snagged a fly ball that was tailing away to the corner. Afterward, he got a hug from center fielder Davey-Jay Rijke for his effort.
“We were working on defense the whole year,” assistant coach Ringemar Raap said. “What you see is no surprise for us. We trust in these guys and know they can do the job.”
In the fifth, Taiwan loaded the bases on singles by Wu Hsuan-Hung, Hsu Ta-Sheng and Liao Yuan-Shu, which ended Reangelo’s day as he surpassed the 85-pitch limit for Little League. Qshondrickson Doran came in with two outs to face Tseng Yi-Che and got him to fly out to left.
“I said ‘You can do it,’” Everett said. “‘I need one out from you. Just throw strikes and we will make the out.’”
Davey-Jay rescued Curacao in the sixth, making a warning-track catch on a deep fly ball off the bat of Wang Yuan-Fu to preserve the lead, a play that resulted in Davey-Jay getting mobbed by his fellow outfielders.
Curacao scored in the bottom of the third. Alexander Provacia led off the inning with a bunt single and advanced to second on a throwing error. Alexander moved to third on a passed ball and scored on Jaydion’s single, a grounder that found a sweet spot between first and second base, to give Curacao a 1-0 lead.
“It means so much,” Jaydion said. “When I got back to the dugout I cried because I knew we were going to win this game and go to the big final.”
An island with just over 150,000 people, Curacao has one tournament title, coming in 2004. But Curacao also was the last international team to play in the LLWS championship, in 2019, when it fell to Louisiana.
“It means so much because everyone believes in us,” Everett said. “During the tournament, they started to believe because we have come out to do our job and come up with a W.”
The 2020 tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus and last year only U.S. teams played because of travel restrictions caused by the pandemic.
Taiwan is historically one of the best international teams in the LLWS, winning 17 titles. But its last championship came in 1996.
Li Fang-Mo was excellent on the mound for Taiwan despite the loss, tossing five innings of one-run, three-hit ball and striking out nine Curacao batters.
“Li performed very well today,” Taiwan manager Chang Tzu-Chien said through an interpreter. “Competing against Curacao, we don’t have room for error. He missed one signal and the base runner advanced and that’s what we believe cost us the game.”
Jake Starr is a Penn State journalism student.