The Little League World Series is back in South Williamsport, Pa., giving way to a new generation of players looking to make their names on the baseball diamond.
Early in the tournament, we've already seen some memorable finishes. The question is: What have been the best endings from South Williamsport thus far?
Certain players have risen to deliver finishes that even the pros would be honored to achieve. Other games have seen both teams provide offensive fireworks and defensive heroics.
Only a select few, however, make the list of the best finishes so far.
Grant Holman's Dominance
If the 2013 Little League World Series were to end today, there would be no questions about who is the MVP. Grant Holman of Chula Vista, Calif., threw the first-ever extra-innings complete game no-hitter and also smacked a game-deciding grand slam.
Both finishes to those games make this list.
In Holman's no-hitter, he went seven innings and struck out 13 batters even as Chad Lorkowski matched him with six innings of nearly flawless work and striking out 12, it wasn't enough, though.
With Holman leading the charge, Chula Vista arose in the top of the seventh inning to put three big runs on the board for the first runs of the day to reward one of the greatest individual efforts in Little League World Series history.
Holman wasted no time in offering up a follow-up performance, as he hit a grand slam in the next game with the four runs clinching a mercy rule win. The star of the show punched Chula Vista's ticket to the next round where it will take on New England champ Westport, Conn., in a United States bracket semifinal.
What more could you possibly ask for?
Northwest Survives Midwest Scare
Sammamish, Wash., entered the bottom of the sixth inning with a 6-2 lead over Urbandale, Iowa. With nothing but an epic collapse separating it from a victory over Urbandale, the Northwest champ had every reason to be confident.
Then the collapse began.
Brook Heinen hit a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth, pulling Urbandale within 6-4. After an errant throw and a passed ball, Henien rounded the bases and ended up scoring to make it a one-run deficit, but the Northwest region champs held on for the 6-5 win.
Will Armbruester came through with a strikeout to end things, but it wasn't without drama. Urbandale pulled within one more big hit of tying things up and completing a legendary comeback, but Northwest was just too strong in the end.
If not for Sammamish's two runs in the top of the sixth inning, we might be having a different conversation.
With the Sammamish already ahead, 4-2, Adam Carper opened the sixth with an infield single that led to an opportunistic hitting performance. The visitors ended up scoring two more runs to extend their lead to 6-2 and needed every one of those runs to win.
Japan Escapes Against Chinese Taipei
It's no secret that Japan is the perennial favorite to win the Little League World Series, ranking second all-time internationally with eight titles. Japan is the defending LLWS champion for even more reason to like its chances this week.
Against Chinese Taipei, Tokyo, Japan, nearly met its match before its praises could begin.
Japan struck early, taking a 1-0 lead after Dai Okada drove in a run during the second inning. That score remained intact until the top of the sixth, when Japan struck again and appeared to take control.
Takuma Gomi crushed a home run to center field, plating two to give Japan a commanding 3-0 lead, but the lead was nearly erased, just like that.
With its backs against the wall, Chinese Taipei came out firing in the bottom of the sixth where it cut the lead to one and put the game-tying run on first base.
Fortunately for Japan, Kyousuke Kobayashi overcame two wild pitches and recorded two outs to end the game, allowing Japan to escape against a team that had more than enough opportunities to break through.
We may have learned that Japan isn't invincible, but there was another lesson to take away—no team has defeated it yet.