In the end, this was simply not a good night to be playing from behind against Chinese Taipei at the Pony League World Series.
That’s the situation Host Area champion Youngstown, Ohio, found itself only two batters into a battle of undefeated teams Monday night.
Chinese Taipei forged an early three-run lead on the strength of two home runs, and three relief pitchers combined for four shutout innings in an 8-1 victory at Lew Hays Pony Field in Washington Park.
Youngstown, which had not played since winning its opening game Friday, is facing a quick turnaround as it will play an elimination game 10 a.m. today against Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
“Our kids will be ready,” Youngstown manager Scott Ruark said. “That was our first loss as a group and we’ll have to make some adjustments.”
Chinese Taipei advances to the division finals, 5:30 p.m. today, and will face the winner of the Youngstown-Arecibo game. That game will be televised by AT&T SportsNet.
Chinese Taipei, the only undefeated team in the division, took the lead only two batters into the game and led 2-0 after one inning.
“Chinese Taipei took advantage of some mistakes that cost us a few runs. But getting behind 2-0 in the first inning wasn’t how we wanted to start,” Ruark said. “We’ve been behind before, though, and clawed our way back.”
This time, however, Chinese Taipei’s pitching and defense were too much for Youngstown. Four Chinese Taipei pitchers combined on a six-hitter, which included two doubles by Youngstown catcher Jarrod Malagise. Chinese Taipei did not commit an error.
“Their pitchers, they’re all something we’re not used to seeing,” Ruark admitted. “We’ll have to adjust because I hope we see them again.”
Liu Chen Wei reached on an infield single to start the game and moved across the diamond by stealing second base and advancing when the throw from the Youngstown catcher sailed into center field. Tseng Yi Wei followed with a sacrifice fly that made it 1-0.
Two batters later, Pai Chen An hit his second home run in as many games at the World Series, a solo shot off the scoreboard beyond the right-field fence off Youngstown starter Anthony Malagise to give Chinese Taipei a 2-0 lead.
Youngstown grabbed the momentum in the bottom of the second when it began the inning with three consecutive hits off Tseng, the Chinese Taipei starter.
Jarrod Malagise led off with a double to the fence in left centerfield and Luca Ricchiuti put down a perfect bunt up the third-base line that went for a single. Stephen Tarnoci then hit a sharp grounder through the right side, scoring Malagise with Youngstown’s first run. Ricchiuti, however, was thrown out trying to advance to third base for the inning’s first out.
“We didn’t get a big two-out hit,” Ruark said. “One big hit to get us going is what we needed. We have a lot of kids who can hit it out of here, but we didn’t get the big hits.”
Chinese Taipei stretched its lead to 4-1 in the third, getting one run with one swing of the bat and the second run with a lot of help.
Tseng hit a one-out home run to right field that made it 3-1. Like Pai’s homer in the first inning, it came on a two-strike pitch.
Yi Lei Sun followed the home run by reaching on an error and coming around to score on three wild pitches.
Tseng, a lefty, exited after giving up a leadoff double to Jarrod Malagise to start the bottom of the fourth. Li Sz Te, a hard-throwing righthander, was brought in to pitch and he retired all five batters he faced, four on strikeouts. Chang Yun Kai, a sidearmer, pitched 1 2/3 innings and Sun Yi Lei, a lefty, pitched the seventh inning.
“We were saving some of our pitching,” Chinese Taipei manager Chen Yi Sung said through a translator. “Youngstown and Puerto Rico both have good hitting teams so we tell our guys they have to take advantage of every opportunity. We’re going to play one of those teams again.”
Chinese Taipei tacked on two runs in both the sixth and seventh innings, the final run coming on a solo home run by Yang Tzu Chun.
West Virginia University head coach Randy Mazey threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … The Chinese Taipei team, which is out of Taipei City, has outscored its two World Series opponents by a combined 22-1. … Youngstown relief pitcher Andrew Frye left the game in the seventh inning after being hit in the wrist by a line drive.