Chicago, Japan advance at LLWS

The glare of the spotlight on Davis and her teammates grew exponentially as the Little League World Series unfolded. Television ratings were up 143 percent Wednesday night from the corresponding game last year, and this week she became the first Little Leaguer to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Baseball is trying to lure young African-Americans back to the game, and the opponents Thursday night offered some evidence that the strategy might be making inroads. That one inner-city team had to beat another for a spot in the U.S. title game was not lost on Major League Baseball commissioner-elect Rob Manfred.

"With respect to baseball games, we try to take a position of neutrality," Manfred said at Lamade Stadium. "I have to tell you a Philadelphia-Chicago matchup is pretty darn good. It's so wonderful when people turn on their televisions and they see people from very different socioeconomic backgrounds in a setting like this. When you have a diverse group like the Philadelphia group, it sends a message that baseball's a wide-open sport."

When the two teams finally do return home, they likely will be overwhelmed a little more.

"We've always had the goal of baseball in the inner cities, how to get more African-Americans to play baseball," said Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, who hung out with the Philly kids and other teams earlier in the day during an appearance for one of his sponsors.

"I think it shows it's working. I don't think they understand the magnitude of what they've accomplished.

"I think they have a grasp of it, but I don't think they'll really understand it until they get back."

Japan 12, Mexico 1

Suguru Kanamori homered twice and Ren Takeuchi also had a big day, helping Japan advance to the international championship.

Hayato Ueshima had a leadoff drive for Japan's first homer of the tournament, and Kanamori also went deep in the first. Kanamori added a three-run shot in the fifth, giving Japan the mercy-rule victory.

Ueshima, who raced around the bases with a wide smile on his face, said he doesn't hit home runs often.

"To hit a home run, and it was the team's first of the tournament ... I'm very happy about that," Ueshima said.

Japan will play South Korea for the title on Saturday. It lost 4-2 to South Korea on Wednesday.

"I'm looking forward to that game," Japanese manager Junji Hidaka said.

Takeuchi allowed one hit, Juan Garza's leadoff homer in the first, in 3 2/3 innings. He also went 2-for-3 with three RBIs in the five-inning game.

Takeuchi said he made a mistake on his first batter and credited his teammates for scoring in the bottom of the first and relieving him of any added pressure.

"We gained momentum," Takeuchi said. "I thank my teammates, and I could make sure my pitching was what I wanted afterward."

Mexico committed five errors.

"We knew that we had to play perfect against Japan. We couldn't do it," manager Hector Arrieta said. "It was hard to come back from that."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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