SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) -- To break the Apopka, Fla., Little League team out of its two-game hitting slump, the coaches offered a new strategy.
If you want to hit the ball, you have to learn not to swing.
The bats returned Wednesday night and landed Apopka in the U.S. championship games at the Little League World Series.
Will Blankenship hit a three-run homer in the first inning, leading Apopka to a 6-1 victory over Brownsburg, Ind., in a U.S. semifinal.
"They had a lot of swing-and-miss, and we thought that they should just take a better look at the ball," Apopka coach Ken Tapley said.
Apopka (3-1) advanced to Saturday's championship against the winner of Thursday's semifinal between the Rolando Paulino team from the Bronx, N.Y., and Oceanside, Calif.
"I didn't know we'd make it this far after losing to New York, but I guess we played a better game," said Brandon Brewer, who had two hits and scored two runs.
Apopka came to South Williamsport as an aggressive team, hitting 49 home runs in its last 24 games. But the coaches thought the team was a little too aggressive in the series, especially in a 5-0 opening loss to the Bronx when Danny Almonte pitched a perfect game, striking out 16.
Players were told to swing on a perfect strike, but to wait on a questionable ball, get a feel for the pitcher's release and what he might give them.
That paid off in the first inning, when Blankenship sent a shot over the left-field fence with runners on first and second.
"It was a fastball inside, just like the first one the other night," Blankenship said. "I knew it was a home run as soon as I hit it."
Justin Lafavers (2-0) struck out four of the first five Brownsburg batters, giving up just three hits. He walked two and finished with seven strikeouts.
"We didn't hit fastballs enough. And if we don't, we're in trouble," Brownsburg manager Gary King said.
Zach Zwieg's RBI single scored Tapley in the fifth, and Stuart Tapley hit an RBI double in the sixth to put Apopka up 6-1.
"Our team usually scratches and claws for runs, and by the fifth inning it started to sink in we were in trouble," King said.
Michael Bradburn scored on a grounder in the fourth inning for Brownsburg's only run.
Indiana (3-1) won all three games in pool play against Louisiana, Rhode Island and California. Florida finished second, beating Washington and Iowa after the loss to the Bronx.
Japan 15, Mexico 5
Atsushi Mochizuki hit a grand slam in the fifth inning and finished with six RBIs as Tokyo Kitasuna defeated Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, in an international semifinal game.
Ciro Castillo hit a three-run shot -- his second homer of the series -- in the bottom of the fifth to bring Mexico (2-2) within 6-3.
The game got out of hand in the sixth when Japan scored nine runs.
Sugisawa (1-0) got the win in his first start of the series, striking out five and walking none. Pedro Rodriguez (0-1) took the loss.
Japan (3-1) will play either Guam or the Netherlands Antilles in the international championship Saturday.
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