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Jun, 2018

Chinese Taipei wins Pony Asia-Pacific Zone title in extra innings in rematch against Japan

Fans at Atom Home Stadium Ginowan were expecting a clash of two titans Friday at the Pony Asia-Pacific Zone Championships in Okinawa, Japan. The tournament's championship game featured undefeated host Japan and the 2014-16 AP Zone Champions from Chinese Taipei. In pool play action between the two teams Wednesday, Japan narrowly edged Chinese Taipei 7-6. 

Fans got what they came for, as the championship game went into extra innings tied 7-7, after Japan pulled off a two-run comeback in the bottom of the seventh. In the top of the eighth, Yung-Sheng Wu's RBI single proved to be the eventual game-winner for Chinese Taipei. Trailing by a run with two runners in scoring position with one out, Japan hit into a double play to end the game, giving Chinese Taipei its fourth AP Zone title in five years. As the Zone champion, Chinese Taipei has earned the Zone's automatic bid to the DICK'S Sporting Goods Pony World Series in Washington, Pennsylvania, and following a year's absence in 2017, will look to defend its 2015-16 World Series titles.

Championship Game Final: Chinese Taipei 8   Japan 7   F/8

It was a back-and-forth contest all morning long, as fans witnessed five lead changes and two ties at different points in the Championship Game of the 2018 Pony Asia-Pacific Zone Championships in Okinawa, Japan. Japan got on the board first in the bottom of the third inning, when Kairi Nakahodo cashed in Atsuki Watanabe from third base on a single past third base. But Chinese Taipei countered with three runs of its own in the top of the fourth inning. Cheng-Yi Chen walked, before the CT offense followed with back-to-back-to-back singles, scoring Chen and leaving the bases loaded for Chia-Hsiang Liu. Liu knocked a single into right field, scoring Tzu-Ching Yang from third and Po-Wei Huang from second (3-1).

Japan tied the game back up at three in the bottom of the fourth thanks to two costly Chinese Taipei errors that cost the team two runs. Japan retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth, when Nakahodo crushed a triple to left field and Kosei Kaida followed it up on the next at-bat with an RBI base knock to left as well.

Chinese Taipei rebounded in the top of the sixth inning thanks to a Sin-Jie Wu three-run home run to center field. Yang and Huang, both reached base prior to the Wu three-run home run by way of errors. The Japanese chipped at the Chinese Taipei lead in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a Tomotaka Nohara RBI triple to center field, but with one full inning left to play, the host team still trailed a run.

Japan's odds at pulling off a comeback slimmed, when, in the top of the seventh, Chen hit a triple to left field, and with two outs, Huang cashed him in from third on a single to left field, giving Chinese Taipei a 7-5 lead. As they had done earlier in the game and all tournament long for Japan, Nakahodo and Kaida led the offensive charge in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Nakahodo tripled to right field and came home to score on Kaida's triple during the next at-bat, giving Japan a runner 80 feet from home plate, down a run. On the following at-bat, Ryusei Arakawa hit a ground ball to the pitcher Shu-Wei Kuo. Kuo opted to go to first for the out, as Kaida dashed home and scored the game-tying run (7-7).

In the top of the eighth, Kuo reached on a fielder's choice and was moved to second on another fielder's choice, bringing Wu to the plate, who had gone 0-for-2 up to that point in the game off the bench. But on the first pitch he saw, Wu knocked the ball into center field, as Kuo came around to score, scoring the eventual game-winning run and giving Chinese Taipei a lead it would not surrender.

Japan had one last chance in the bottom of the eighth. Ikki Asahi led off the inning by reaching on an error at second base. Nohara then singled to center. Watanabe bunted both runners up a base, as Asahi was pinch ran for. Unfortunately for Japan, the game ended on a double play during the next at-bat, and the previously undefeated host team lost 8-7 in a game that will go down in PONY history as one of the Asia-Pacific Zone's best.

The year 2018 marks Chinese Taipei's 12th PONY Asia-Pacific Zone title in the Pony 14U age division this century (2000-01, 2005, 2007-09, 2011-12, 2014-16, 2018) and its 17th since the team first qualified for the Pony World Series in 1994. As the Zone champion, Chinese Taipei has earned the Zone's automatic bid to the DICK'S Sporting Goods Pony World Series in Washington, Pennsylvania, and will face off against the winner of Game #1 between the North Zone Champion and Caribbean Zone Champion in Game #5 Saturday, Aug. 11 at 5:30 p.m. ET/US.

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