SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Cody Walker hit a two-run homer off ace Go Matsumoto, Ryan Carter struck out 11, and Columbus, Ga., beat Kawaguchi City, Japan, 2-1 to win the Little League World Series championship game on Monday.
It was the second straight American victory in the Series, coming on the heels of Ewa Beach, Hawaii's win over a team from Willemstad, Curacao last year. The United States hadn't captured back-to-back Little League titles with different teams since 1982-83 when Kirkland, Wash., and Marietta, Ga., celebrated in Williamsport.
Long Beach, Calif., was a repeat champion in 1992-93 — the first victory awarded after a Phillipines squad was stripped of the title for using over-age players.
Matsumoto had devastated hitters in this tournament with his powerful fastball. It was potent again for him on Monday, except for Walker's shot in the third inning that followed a baserunning blunder.
Carter overcame a bout of wildness in the sixth and final inning. With two runners on, he got Ryoya Sato to hit a weak bouncer to Josh Lester at second for the last out of the game.
That prompted the Georgia-leaning crowd to erupt in cheers, chant "USA! USA!" and wave American flags. Columbus players rushed toward Lester, skipping up and down in celebration and tossing their gloves to the sky.
Then they posed on the mound for a group picture with a banner that proclaimed them "World Series Champions" as their gloves were strewn across the infield.
Columbus' rally was nearly thwarted by Carter's mistake on the bases.
Carter took off from first on Lester's single to center but didn't heed the stop sign thrown by manager Randy Morris at third. He was nailed at home for the second out, sliding into the catcher's shin guards well short of the plate.
It didn't matter, because Walker then hit his opposite-field shot over the right field fence. Lester pumped his fist as he rounded third, and Morris got so excited as Walker circled the bases that his hat fell off. Jubilant teammates greeted Walker at the plate.
A sign in the Columbus cheering section read, "Georgia, Not Just Peaches." Now, it's also home to the best team in Little League baseball.
Japan is known for its power hitting, having hit 11 homers in its first five games of the Series, including four by Seigo Yada and two by Matsumoto. The international champions used small ball to score their only run in the third inning on Monday.
Yada hit a one-out bouncer into center. Pinch-hitter Yusuke Inuzuka missed on two bunt attempts but advanced Yada to second with a slow grounder down the third-base line.
Matsumoto, who struck out nine and walked two, followed with a high chopper up the middle that drove in Yada.
Rain forced the title game to be pushed back from Sunday, and organizers then moved the starting time ahead by three hours after weather forecasts showed another chance of rain in the evening.
The title game has been rescheduled just once before, in 1990, when rain forced San-Hua, Chinese Taipei, and Shippensburg, Pa., to play one day later than scheduled. Chinese Taipei won 9-0.
Columbus and Marietta are the only teams from Georgia to reach the Little League World Series.