As the first full weekend of the Little League World Series draws to a close, the action is only beginning to heat up in Williamsport, Pa. With many MLB teams merely playing out the string at this point, some of the best baseball on television today will be courtesy of players who are years away from making it to the pro level.
The winner's bracket is the focus of Sunday's LLWS schedule as each team in action was victorious in its opening game last week. So before the first pitch is thrown this afternoon, here's a look at four teams that should make some noise in Williamsport later today.
Canada (Vancouver, British Columbia): It wasn't pretty, but Canada came out on the winning end of a slugfest in their LLWS opener, defeating Mexico 13-9 on Friday. Canada scored seven runs in the first inning of that game, and they'll need a similar start today if they want to defeat Latin America (Aguadulce, Panama) to advance in the winner's bracket.
Working in Canada's favor is the fact that its two stars—Cole Dalla-Zanna and Steven Moretto—combined to go 5-for-5 with six runs scored against Mexico.
Southeast (Goodlettsville, Tenn.): The Southeast exploded for 12 runs in their first LLWS game, and will look to build on that momentum as they face off against the West team (Petaluma, Calif.) on Sunday afternoon.
Brock Myers and Jake Rucker combined to throw a two-hitter for the Southeast on Thursday, and if the rest of the Goodlettsville pitching staff is anywhere near as talented as those two, the Tennessee team will be a tough out in this year's LLWS.
Great Lakes (New Castle, Ind.): Three Great Lakes hurlers combined on an 11-strikeout, two-hit shutout on Friday night, leading the New Castle, IN, team to a 4-0 victory over the Northwest squad hailing from Gresham, Ore..
A repeat performance doesn't appear to be in the cards for Great Lakes today, however. They'll be facing a Southwest (San Antonio, Texas) team that scored four runs in the first two innings of its 5-2 victory over Parsippany, N.J., on Friday. Expect this one to be a spirited pitchers duel with the Indiana squad ultimately coming out on top.
Asia-Pacific (Taoyuan, Chinese Taipei): The Little League World Series is only a few days old, yet tonight's game between Japan (Tokyo, Japan) and Asia-Pacific (Taoyuan, Chinese Taipei) might be the best showdown in the entire tournament.
Chinese Taipei has perennially had one of the best Little League programs in the world, and this year's team is no different. Asia-Pacific destroyed Europe (Ramstein, Germany) 14-1 on Thursday in a game that was shortened by the mercy rule after four innings.
Don't expect to see the mercy rule come into effect today, however. Japan is a powerhouse in its own right after having shut out the Caribbean team (Willemstad, Curacao) 7-0 in the first game of the LLWS on Thursday. Japan has arguably the best pitching staff in the tournament, so Asia-Pacific definitely have their work cut out for them.