Saturday August 5, Panama will face Japan in the Little League World Series International Final. Immediately following them, Tennessee will take on California in the US Final.
Japan enters the game with a 3-0 record in LLWS play in 2012, including a 4-1 win over Panama on August 22. The team is riding its pitching, which has yet to allow an earned run in the tournament.
Pitcher Kotaro Kiyomiya has recorded eight outs for Japan, seven by strikeout. At 6'0" and 206 lbs., Kiyomiya is also batting .667 with three RBI in six at-bats (via the official LLWS website).
Against them will be a Panama team fresh off a 2-1 victory over Mexico to reach the final. Their only loss in the tournament came earlier to Japan.
For Panama, the key will be getting to Japan's pitching. The Japanese team has displayed dominance on the hill but has not proved to be an explosive offensive threat. With just a few runs, Panama may be able to bring down the undefeated Japanese team.
My prediction: Panama will ride the momentum of its win against Mexico and improve from its first run in with Japan. They will score early, and Japan will be forced to come from behind to win.
I don't think Japan's offense will get it done.
Final score: 5-3; Panama is victorious.
Taking the field after the International Final will be a California team filled with confidence after an 11-1 drubbing of Texas. Led by Hance Smith's two homers (one being a first-inning grand slam), the Californians ended the game early by creating a 10-run deficit by the fifth inning.
California stands at 4-1 in the LLWS tournament, its opponent Tennessee is 3-0. In fact, Tennessee has already downed California by the score of 9-6 and will look to repeat the procedure Saturday.
Despite Tennessee's dominance earlier in the tournament, the team squeaked out a 4-3 win over Texas to play in the final. Now, the team runs into a tested and hot California team. If they are to withstand California's momentum, Tennessee will have to revert back to its play at the start of the tournament.
One-game finals are a completely different animal than playing a series. Due to the sudden death mentality that now exists, both teams will be under the ultimate pressure.
My prediction: California is rolling and will continue to do so. In the wake of the team's earlier loss to Tennessee, the boys will give their best effort of the tournament.
Tennessee, like Japan, will be unable to finish the LLWS undefeated.
Final score: 8-4 in favor of California.