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Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Matsumoto powers Japan past Curacao into semis

SportsTicker

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Go Matsumoto and Kawaguchi City, Japan, emphatically reached the international semifinals at the Little League World Series.

Matsumoto belted a grand slam and tossed a four-hitter as Kawaguchi City remained undefeated with a 7-2 Pool D triumph over Willemstad, Curacao.

While Kawaguchi City (3-0), the Asian champion, advanced to play Lara, Venezuela, a 1-0 winn over Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Caribbean champion Willemstad (1-2) was eliminated. The Curacao team had won the LLWS in 2004 and reached the final last year.

Kawaguchi City broke open a 3-1 game when Matsumoto smacked his first home run of the tournament with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth. The ball glanced off the glove of 4-foot-9 center fielder Rayshelon Carolina and then hit the top of the fence before trickling over the wall.

"As soon as I hit it, I thought it was a home run," Matsumoto said through an interpreter. "Then I remembered they moved the fences back. I was excited when it went over."

Seigo Yada also homered for the Japanese club, which outscored its three opponents by a combined 24-3. He has three homers in as many games.

Matsumoto struck out 12 and walked just one in his first pitching performance since tossing a perfect game against Taiwan in Hong Kong on July 23.

"Matsumoto hadn't pitched since the regionals," Japanese manager Shigeru Hidaka said. "It's been a while since he had to perform. I was pleased with his pitching."

"He was nasty," Curacao manager Michelangelo Celestina said of Matsumoto. "He worked the outside corner with a good curveball and fastball."

Ingemar Haime, who surrendered Matsumoto's grand slam, homered for Willemstad. Starting pitcher Sherman Lacrus allowed three runs -- two earned -- and three hits in three innings.