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The dynasty continues! For the sixth straight year, a team from Chinese Taipei has captured the world championship of the Junior League Baseball World Series.
The Shing-Ming Junior Little League of Taoyuan, Chinese Taipei, edged Lufkin, Texas, 2-0, in Sunday’s thrilling finale at Taylor’s Heritage Park. The game was viewed at World Series Field and by spectators worldwide on ESPN2.
The world title game pitted two undefeated teams from the eight-day World Series for the best teams of 13- and 14-year-old players from around the globe. Chinese Taipei was the International champion; Texas won the USA title.
The game was scoreless when Chinese Taipei loaded the bases on singles by Huang Pao-Lo, Chen Bo-Yan and pitcher Huang Kuan Lun in the bottom of the third inning, but a fielder’s choice and infield line out ended the threat.
In the fourth, Chinese Taipei broke the scoreless tie when Li Chin-Wei singled, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Wang Chia-Yi and scored on a single by Lee Hsun-Chieh.
The Asia-Pacific champs went up 2-0 in the fifth when pitcher Huang belted a solo home run – his third hit of the day.
In the top of the seventh – the last inning of Junior League baseball games – it was Lufkin’s turn to load the bases on singles by Mark Requena, Thomas Deaton and Chip Buchanan. Li Shui-Hsun came on to relieve Huang and got Cam Jackson to ground into a fielder’s choice, ending the game.
Huang was the winning pitcher, combining with Li for the shutout. He allowed five hits and walked one, while striking out six. Bebo Hinojosa went the distance on the mound for Texas, allowing nine hits. Huang was 3-for-3.
Chinese Taipei went 4-0 during this year’s eight-day tournament and is now 32-0 over the six-year run as World Series champion. All-star teams from Chinese Taipei have represented the Asia-Pacific region nine years in a row.
The game marked the only defeat for Texas (4-1) during the World Series. Six players on the current team also played in last year’s Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The team also won the USA title in Little League, but finished runner-up to the world champions from Japan.
The tightness of this year’s world championship game was a far cry from last year’s mercy-game victory by Chinese Taipei. Manager Huang Wei Chih – making his fifth appearance in Taylor – said through an interpreter that his players were nervous, but also credited Texas pitcher Hinojosa’s work on the mound.
Huang said he was happy with the victory and hoped Chinese Taipei would return to the JLWS in 2019.
This is the fifth straight year a team from Texas has played in the JLWS and the 14th time in the last 16 years. Lufkin was making the 20th appearance in Taylor for teams from the Lone Star State. Texas teams have won three world titles, the last coming from El Campo in 2006.
Texas Manager Oralio Flores Jr. said the close game showed “Texas brand baseball.” He credited Chinese Taipei with being “a machine” on the baseball field.
“We come to compete,” he said. “Of course, we’re disappointed. We came a long way to compete. Regardless of the outcome, the kids played their hearts out. They deserved to be in this game.”
Lifelong World Series volunteer Dan Bzura – son of founder and Director Greg Bzura – said the JLWS was outstanding in 2018, based on all of the exciting and close games.
“It was a great tournament all around,” Dan Bzura said. “I think the championship game was like much of the rest of the tournament: a competitive, close game not decided until the very end. How many walk-offs, how many extra-inning games, how many one- and two-run games did we have? It was a well-played tournament.”
The Junior League World Series is the “older brother” of the more famous Little League World Series for 12-year-olds. The JLWS was founded in Taylor in 1981 and has been hosted by the Metro Detroit city since.
The World Series was originally for 13-year-old players. The first World Series had just four American teams. The Junior division eventually expanded to include 14-year-olds as well, which enabled more nations to compete for regional championships and qualify for the World Series.
This year, 12 teams completed during the week-long tournament – the most in JLWS history. Teams now come as far away as Australia and the Asia Pacific, but this year Little League International authorized a Michigan District 5 champion to play as a host team to even up the pools at six American teams and six International teams. The Brownstown Township all-stars served as the first host team.
Joining Texas and Michigan in the USA pool were teams from the Warren Park Youth Baseball League in Chicago, Illinois; the Elk-McKean Little League from Kane, Wilcox, Johnsonburg and Ridgway, Pennsylvania; the Elbert County Little League from Elberton, Georgia; and the Manhattan Beach Little League from Manhattan Beach, California.
Joining Chinese Taipei in the International pool were the Australian national champions from the Hills Little League in Sydney, New South Wales; the Canadian national champions from Diamond Academy Little League in Mirabel, Quebec; the Europe/Africa regional champions from the Emilia Romagna Little League in Emilia Romagna, Italy; the Latin America champions from the Aruba Center Little League in Santa Cruz, Aruba; and the Mexican national champions from the Trevino Kelly League in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.
A number of players have gone on from the Junior League World series to play professional baseball and other sports. Former and current pro ballplayers to play in Taylor have included Freddy Galvis, Dylan Cozens Gary Sheffield, Eric Bedard, Brett Myers, brothers Jose and Javier Valentin, Erubiel Durazo, Chad Hermansen, Derek Bell, Delino DeShields, Shannon Withem, Adam Loewen and Chris Brock. Other JLWS alums include current pro football quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes II and Matt Cassel (of the Detroit Lions), former National Hockey League players Chris Dingman and Steve Reinprecht and former college football star and current coach Mark “Bo” Pelini.
For more information about the Junior League World Series, visit the website www.cityoftaylor.com/worldseries. The World Series has an active Facebook page, www.facebook.com/juniorleagueworldseries. The World Series’ Instagram page is active. Search jlws_taylor.