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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Frank Van Heijst allowed just four hits over five innings Friday as the Netherlands defeated the Ramstein Americans 8-3 in the championship game of Little League Baseball’s European, Middle East and African Regional tournament.

The victory sends the Dutch team of 16- to 19-year-olds to the Big League World Series in Easley, S.C., which runs from July 30 to Aug. 7.

Ramstein’s only loss of the tournament left coach Ken Linger pondering what might have been.

“We picked a bad day to have a bad game,” said Linger, whose team defeated the Netherlands 8-2 earlier in the tournament. “They played loose and we played tight.”

The Dutch team set the tone in the first inning.

Van Heijst needed only five pitches in the top of the first to retire the side. The key, according to catcher Aivaro Maduro, was Van Heijst’s split-finger fastball.

“He shows the batter the split-finger grip outside his glove before every pitch,” Maduro said, “then he changes the grip in his glove or keeps it during the windup.”

Maduro and shortstop Thijs Brand gave Van Heijst early run support, hitting first-inning home runs to give the Netherlands a 3-0 lead.

Despite the rocky start, Linger wasn’t concerned.

“Early runs don’t usually matter in these games,” he said. “We’ve come back all year. Today, we just couldn’t score. We’d load the bases and not score any runs.”

The Americans left two runners stranded in the fourth and fifth innings and ended the game with the bases loaded in the seventh.

Daan de Jong, who relieved Van Heijst in the sixth, got out of the late-inning jam by coaxing a pop-up out of Ramstein cleanup hitter Dustin Linger with one out.

“There was a lot of pressure facing Linger,” de Jong said. Dustin Linger had homered four times in Ramstein’s four previous games this week.

“I threw him a slider outside,” de Jong said. “I wanted to make sure he couldn’t hit it out of the field. I kept it outside so he’d either pop it up or hit a ground ball. It was really exciting.”

De Jong struck out catcher Logan Begeman to end the game.

Dustin Linger, who was 2-for-3 at the plate, allowed eight hits and struck out eight in six innings of work.

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