08/25/2004 8:46 PM ET
Schoop stars for Curacao
By Kent Malmros / Special to MLB.com
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- The joy of winning transcends the language barrier. Just ask Curacao's Jonathan Schoop, who delivered the winning hit in Game 25 of the Little League World Series -- a dramatic 9-8 victory over Taiwan -- with an RBI single.
|Curacao's Jonathan Schoop drives in the winning run on Wednesday. (Tom Puskar/AP)
Minutes after he finished celebrating his team's international semifinal win, Schoop answered questions for the media through translator Carlos Pagan, the tournament's Latin director. But when asked if he knew he'd won the game as soon as the ball left his bat, Schoop's eyes didn't shift to Pagan. The 12-year-old looked directly at the reporters, broke into a huge smile, and delivered an emphatic yes.
Such confidence is rare in kids, but it's understandable when it comes after a heart-stopping, extra-innings victory.
"Once I hit the ball, I knew it was a hit and that we were going to win the game," Schoop later added.
By all accounts, Schoop is the leader of this team. And he showed why on Wednesday. He put his stamp on the winning effort in the top of the seventh, when the 102-pounder was called on to shut down the Taiwan offense.
Wang Wei-Chung led off the inning with a walk from Curacao's Dursely Igancio, who had successfully relieved starter Carlos Pineda in the previous inning. Schoop got the call to replace Ignacio in hopes of maintaining the tie.
The right-hander was unhittable, striking out the side in convincing fashion.
It was an effort that would earn Schoop the win -- if Curacao scored.
2004 Little League ···········
··············· WORLD SERIES
AUGUST 20-29 | WILLIAMSPORT, Pa.
Wednesday, Aug. 25
Curacao 9, Taiwan 8 (7 innings)
Richmond, TX 8, Morgantown, NC, 2
Thursday, Aug. 26
Mexico 6, Panama 2 (10 innings)
Thousand Oaks, CA 3, Preston, MD 1
Saturday, August 28
International Championship Game
Curacao 4, Mexico 0
United States Championship Game
Thousand Oaks, CA 4, Richmond, TX 0
Sunday, August 29
Richmond, Texas 5 Mexico 0
Curacao 5, Thousand Oaks, CA 2
So it was only fitting that, after a stellar pitching performance, Schoop get the chance to deliver Curacao's victory. Firmly entrenched in the No. 3 slot, Schoop had already delivered two hits, and two RBIs, in four at-bats. For the tournament, he was hitting .333 after suffering an injury in the first game.
The bottom of the seventh started with what Curacao coach Michelangelo Celestina called the team's strength -- two bunts. The first came off the bat of Rondei, who beat out the catcher's throw for a single. Then, Igancio also bunted on the first pitch, and his sacrifice moved Rondei to second.
"That is our game," Celestina said. "We bunt a lot, even though we haven't bunted much in this tournament."
An error by Taiwan shortstop Chen Hung-Ta allowed Willie Rifaela to reach base safely. Then Christopher Garia flew out to center, putting the game within one out of an eighth inning.
But after Quincey van Barclum popped weakly in front of Hung-Ta, and reached safely, the stage was set for Schoop.
"I have faith in God, and believe I can do anything in baseball," Schoop said.
Wherever the faith came from, it worked. After taking the first delivery from Taiwan pitcher Hsu Chi-Hung for a ball, Schoop ripped a single into left field, past third baseman Chung Chen-Chia, scoring Rondei.
While it may have been a fitting ending for the Curacao contigent, the ending served as a bitter twist for Taiwan's best player. In a tight contest, the defensive prowess of Chen-Chia made a difference all evening. He demonstrated an array of diving plays in the field, robbing Curacao of hit after hit.
Chen-Chia also managed timely hitting as well. One of two 11-year-olds on the Asian team, Chen-Chia delivered two hits and drove in two runs in the losing effort.
But in the end, Chen-Chia couldn't manage to take one more away from the Caribbeans.
Kent Malmros is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.