Hsieh Chin-hsiung is tiny - and strong.
Hsieh hit his fifth and sixth home runs of the Little League World Series on Thursday night, pushing Taiwan into the championship game and tying a series record as Taiwan beat the Dominican Republic 7-1.The 4-foot-11, 95-pounder could break the record when Taiwan plays U.S. finalist Cranston, R.I., Saturday in the championship. He tied Lin Chih-hsiang's five-game series record for 1995 winner Taiwan and is batting .786 with 13 RBIs in Taiwan's four wins.
Cranston advanced to the finals despite a 2-2 record. Its 1-2 mark going into Thursday's 6-3 win over Panama City, Fla., made it the first team with a losing mark to reach the semifinals since the Little League adopted its pool format in 1992. Cranston was tied with two other teams at 1-2 and advanced because it allowed fewer runs per inning than the other teams.
"I worked with these kids for three years, and I kept telling them they were in for big things," Rhode Island manager Mike Varrato said. "And that came true, and it was a dream come true for all of us."
Hsieh's accomplishment came despite nervousness, which manager Ho Tung-yu felt was serious enough to bat him eighth in the lineup in Taiwan's opener, a 12-3 win Monday over the mostly American team from Saudi Arabia.
Hsieh said he used to get so excited that his heart beat too fast for him to bat well. He must have gotten over it, because Ho moved him to cleanup Tuesday and Wednesday and batted him fifth Thursday.
Cranston got seven strikeouts from Brett Bell, who also allowed nine hits, and a home run from Craig Stinson on his 13th birthday in its win.
"Taiwan has a great club, but I think any of the teams here can beat them," Stinson said. "That short kid can hit, but we just have to throw him strikes. We can beat them. I know we can beat them."
Taiwan has won the series 11 of the last 22 years. Cranston is only the third team from the eastern United States in the series final in the last 21 years.