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Little League World Series: Japan crushes Tennessee in championship final

Little League World Series: Noriatsu Osaka's three home runs propelled the Japanese squad to their second Little League World Series title in three years.

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Tennessee lost a 10-run lead in the bottom of the sixth of that game before scoring nine times the next inning to finally put away Petaluma in a Little League classic. Even more impressively, Butler had three homers and a record nine RBIs — a feat so unique the 12-year-old's name became a trending topic on Twitter.

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Butler went deep again off reliever Osaka in the fifth — Butler's fourth homer in two days — to cut the lead to 10-2 and give Goodlettsvile some hope. Tennessee's mini-mashers have proven they can break out any time at the plate.

"It feels really good and it was really great," Butler said simply about his hitting exploits. He said his three homers Saturday were the longest he had hit all season.

Its pitching depth sapped, Tennessee turned to right-hander Justin Smith to start against Japan — the first time the 12-year-old had pitched in the World Series or in Southeast regional tournament.

"Everybody knew our pitching was depleted and we were bound for a letdown," Hale said. "I'm not saying we were going to beat Japan. I think they were the best team here at everything by far, pitching, hitting. But I think last night is how we want to be remembered."

Leadoff hitter Osaka, 12, didn't waste any time with a first-pitch triple to the right-field corner in the first. Kiyomiya delivered his RBI single two batters later to get the scoring started.

Osaka then homered in the second to left-center, just in front of the "Little League" sign above the fence, before leading off the fourth with his second homer, this time to center, for a 6-1 lead.

The Kitasuna league all-star team from Tokyo won Japan's eighth Little League title and second in three seasons.

While his players danced around in delight after the game, skipper Yoichi Kubo teared up. He kept his composure after managing a team that won the World Series in 2001, "but I was crying this time when we won this game as world champion," he said.

Smith pitched admirably in a tough spot, allowing five runs and seven hits over three innings while striking out three. His team was trying to make history as the first squad from Tennessee to win youth baseball's biggest prize.

Goodlettsville also was the first Tennessee team to advance to South Williamsport since Morristown in 1987. The suburban Nashville crew counts among its fans Rays ace David Price, who is from Murfreesboro.

They might be done with baseball for now, but the celebration is just beginning back home. On Tennessee's social calendar is a visit to the Vanderbilt season opener Thursday night against South Carolina.

"When we get home, it's going to be a carnival," Hale said.

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