SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Curacao didn’t do much at the plate on Saturday, knocking out just three hits.
But behind 4⅔ shutout innings from Reangelo Decaster, some defensive gems and Jaydion Louisa’s pinch-hit dribbler, the Caribbean team beat Taiwan 1-0 to advance to the Little League World Series championship.
Reangelo was “perfect,” Curacao coach Zaino Everett said. “He kept the ball down and threw good curveballs because they have good bats. A good mix of inside and outside helped him get outs.”
Curaçao will play either Hawaii or Tennessee on Sunday, who would play later that same day.
Reangelo got some help coming out of a first-inning jam, thanks to a fly ball and groundout to Liao Yuan-Shu at third. In the fourth, left fielder Jaythan Cordilia ran in and caught a flyball that was headed toward the corner. Later, he received a hug from center fielder Davey-Jay Rijke for his effort.
“We’ve been working on defense all year,” assistant coach Ringemar Raap said. “What you see is not a surprise to us. We trust these guys and we know they can get the job done.”
In the fifth, Taiwan loaded the bases on singles by Wu Hsuan-Hung, Hsu Ta-Sheng and Liao Yuan-Shu, ending Reangelo’s day, which broke the 85-pitch limit for Little League. Qshondrickson Doran came in with two outs to face Tseng Yi-Che and sent him flying to the left.
“I told him, ‘You can do it,'” Everett said. “‘I need one of you. Just throw strikes and we’ll get out.'”
Davey-Jay rescued Curacao in the sixth, making a warning catch on Wang Yuan-Fu’s fly ball to preserve the lead, a play that resulted in Davey-Jay being harassed by his fellow outfielders.
Curaçao 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 pass 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 a lot,” 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 grand finals.”
An island with just over 150,000 inhabitants, Curaçao has a tournament title, in 2004. But Curaçao was also the last international team to play in the LLWS championship, in 2019, when it fell to Louisiana.
“It means a lot because everyone believes in us,” Everett said. “During the tournament, they started to believe because we went out there to do our job and we came out with a W.”
The 2020 tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus and only teams from the United States played last year due to travel restrictions caused by the pandemic.
Taiwan is historically one of the best international teams in the LLWS, winning 17 titles. But his most recent championship came in 1996.
Li Fang-Mo was excellent on the mound for Taiwan despite the loss, pitching five innings with one run and three hits and striking out nine batters for Curacao.
“Li performed very well today,” Taiwan coach Chang Tzu-Chien said through an interpreter. “Coming up against Curacao, we have no room for error. A signal was missed and the baserunner advanced and that’s what we think cost us the game.”