LIVERMORE -- It was bottled water, not champagne, that flowed for the post-game celebration at Max Baer Park in Livermore, but for the Intermediate Little League team from Osaka, Japan, the taste of victory was just as intoxicating.
Japan claimed the inaugural Little League Intermediate World Series title in stellar fashion, crushing Collier Township, Pa., 10-1 in Monday's championship game.
The Asia-Pacific representative broke the game open with a 7-run fourth inning; in four wins in the series, Japan outscored its opponents 51-3.
"Defense was huge for us," said Japanese manager Toshihisa Kitatami. "Our kids were able to focus on single plays."
Japanese pitcher Taisei Shimabe thoroughly baffled Pennsylvania hitters, striking out six batters over the full seven innings and giving up just five hits.
After their victory, players received certificates and a banner, and they tossed each other in the air on the pitcher's mound.
Similar excitement was evident among the fans, who filled the bleachers and were lined up four and five deep behind the backstops to watch the game. Series organizers were expecting attendance of 5,000 for the game, which was broadcast nationally on ESPN2.
The Collier Township team reached the final by virtue of a 5-4 win over the team from Houston on Sunday. The Japanese team -- which traveled the farthest to Livermore -- stormed its way to the title game with blowout wins over Canada and Puerto Rico, before topping Puerto Rico again 12-2 in Sunday's international finals.
After renditions of the Japanese and U.S. national anthems, the teams took the field to a raucous ovation.
For players from the other tournament teams looking on, all bets seemed to be on Japan.
"It's baseball, so anything can happen, but I think Japan is going to crush them," said Michigan catcher Mike Alkema. "They're flawless."
By the top of the seventh inning, the Japanese team was dominating play, leading by 9-0.
Alkema's teammate, leftfielder Clay Strick, said he was sorry his team wasn't in the game, but just being able to play in the first series of its kind was reward enough.
"I don't think there's ever going to be an experience like this," Strick said. "We made history."
Event organizers are calling the inaugural Intermediate World Series an "overwhelming success." According to event spokesman Derek Garcia, the games -- which began July 27-- attracted tens of thousands of fans to the remodeled Max Baer ballpark. The series drew four international teams and six regional teams from the U.S.
"These kids are terrific," added Vicki Jolson, of Livermore, who attended several games during the week. "They're out of this world; I'm glad they came to Livermore."
Series director Dave Wetmore said the championship capped a "really successful" week and is hopeful the event will return next year.
"There were people who said we'd be lucky to get 7,000 people in here ... 40,000 people in a week isn't a bad way to go. There's an economic impact to all that."
The winner of Monday's game took home the trophy for Little League's Intermediate Division, a new classification for players ages 11-13. Play features an expanded 50-foot pitching distance and 70-foot basepaths, also known as "50/70."
Collier Township beat host team Pleasanton National in the third round of the series. Pleasanton National, the District 57 representative, finished 2-2 for the tournament after opening the series with a 12-0 win over Michigan as Evan Wolfe pitched a perfect game.
Kitatami said his team will visit the governor of Osaka to celebrate, adding that his players felt right at home in Livermore; the team was even treated to bowls of steamed rice by local Japanese women.
"I wish that I will be back next year," Kitatami said. "So I need to put together a new team."
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.