Six of the original 16 teams are still in the hunt for the 2012 Little League World Series title, but they still have plenty of work to do before crowning themselves.
Let’s take a look to see who’s still in contention and what each team has to do in order to make it to the Championship Game, scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
United States Bracket
On Wednesday, the final two undefeated American Little League teams will face off in all out showdown. Tennessee and Texas have won both of their first two games in Williamsport, but who will win their third and advance to the U.S. Championship Game?
After a dominant pitching performance by Brock Myers of Tennessee in their opening round game, he struggled with five earned runs. He’s still hitting the lights out and is the Southeast’s biggest game changer. Countering Myers will be the Southwest’s top player, Tyler Vitt. Vitt should be on the mound for this one as he hasn’t pitched in five days. Jordan Cardenas will have to be big at the plate for Texas to win.
The loser of Friday’s duel will play Petaluma, California in an elimination game where the winner will then play for the United States title. The West champions have won their last two games as they’ve been on the brink of elimination since earlier in the tournament. Bradley Smith is their game changer and they won’t win this matchup if he falters.
Out of the three teams, I think that Texas has the best chances of making it to the Little League World Series Championship. They will defeat Tennessee on Thursday and then win a rematch with the Southeast champions in order for a chance at the title.
The two top teams in the International Bracket will take each other on Thursday night, a battle between Japan and Latin America. Japan has been ridiculously good in Williamsport, but does Panama have enough to top their outstanding pitching and deep hitting?
Japan is clearly the team to beat. They took out Chinese Taipei in an absolute classic just a few days ago and now sit undefeated going into Thursday’s matchup.
Noriatsu Osaka and Kotaro Kiyomiya have been outstanding on the mound and I’m not sold that the Panamanians can catch up to their powerful fastballs. James and Edisson Gonzalez will need to take care of business if Panama is going to advance to the International title game.
The loser of Japan and Latin America will take on the Mexicans in the elimination game. Mexico’s bats have carried them to this point and they should be able to defeat Panama, which is the most likely scenario. Ramon Ballina is unstoppable at the plate and should be able to power them to a victory.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Japan wins the International bracket. It would be a shame to see them lose since they’re so talented and much better than any other team in Williamsport. In my eyes, they could easily win the entire Little League World Series.