South Korea and Japan meet for a spot in LLWS championship
By Tommy Butler
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — The international bracket final Saturday at the Little League World Series will be a rematch of the two teams that have looked the best so far on that side the tournament — Kawaguchi, the representative of defending champion Japan, and Seoul, South Korea.
The twist is that Japan, the LLWS team of the decade, may be the underdog.
The winner gets either Hawaii or Georgia, the teams in the U.S. final, in the championship on Sunday.
THE STORY SO FAR: On Wednesday, the two teams faced off and it was not close. Seoul won 10-0 in four innings. Little League games run six innings, but this one was called early under the mercy rule.
Kim Yeong-Hyeon was on the mound for Seoul, earning a one-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts on only 49 pitches.
Japan fell to the lower side of the double-elimination bracket, where it edged Puerto Rico 1-0 on Thursday.
WHO TO WATCH: Choi Ji-Hyung is hitting .667 in the tournament for South Korea, the Asia-Pacific region champs, and has one of the hottest bats in South Williamsport. In nine official at-bats, Choi has six hits — two of which left the park — for five RBIs and six runs. Against Japan on Wednesday, he went 3-for-3 with two singles and a home run.
And that’s with new bat that packs a lot less power than the older models.
Kawaguchi, meanwhile, scored 45 runs combined at Japan’s national tournament but has just 16 runs in the same number of games — four — in South Williamsport. It needs to start heating up at the plate.
DID YOU KNOW: The Japanese team has been dominant lately, winning five of the last eight Little League World Series titles. A team from Kawaguchi hasn’t represented Japan since 2006, however, when it defeated Mexico for a championship berth, only to fall to the team from Georgia.