Little League World Series 2013: Viewer's Guide to Final Weekend of Tournament
And then there were four. What started as a 16-team field from around the globe has been whittled down to four of the very best little league teams in the world vying for the United States, International and World Series championships over the weekend.
This year's tournament has offered a little bit of everything.
We saw an incredible extra-innings no-hitter from Grant Holman, a 14-13 extra-innings classic in the United States semifinal and yet another impressive team from Japan earning an International championship bid.
With just four total games left and three championships to hand out, you won't want to miss any of the action.
Here's the full schedule for the weekend's action and the teams that will be looking to end their tournament run on a high note. A complete look at the tournament bracket can be found at littleleague.org.
|Saturday, Aug. 24.|
|Japan vs. Mexico (International Championship)||12:30 p.m. ET||ABC|
|West vs. New England (United States Championship)||3:30 p.m. ET||ABC|
|Sunday, Aug. 25|
|Third Place Game||11:00 a.m. ET||ESPN|
|World Championship||3:30 p.m. ET||ABC|
Chula Vista, Calif. became an immediate team to watch in the first round of the tournament after Grant Holman threw an extra-innings no-hitter. The squad's 15-3 win over Delaware in the second round showed that it is much more than just one pitcher.
With a win over fellow United States semifinal foe Connecticut already in hand, California is as strong a bet as any to come away with the Little League World Series title.
Player to Watch: Grant Holman, P/SS
This is a rather obvious choice. The 6'4", 166-pound Holman didn't just toss a no-hitter in the first game and stop making an impact. He also hit a walk-off grand slam in the second round and hit the game-winning three-run homer against Connecticut to get to this point.
Whether he's on the mound or at the dish, you'll want to keep an eye on Holman.
New England (Connecticut)
Connecticut dropped one game to California, but don't think that means that the semifinal between the two teams is a foregone conclusion. This team has heart.
It would have been easy for this group of youngsters to quit when trailing 11-6 in the bottom of the fifth inning in its elimination game against Washington.
Instead, the club posted a seven-run inning to take the game into extra innings, where it won 14-13 on the strength of Chad Knight's game-winning run.
Player to Watch: Chad Knight, P/IF
Knight's heroics aren't limited to one plate appearance in that elimination game. He's a legitimate pitcher who went a solid 4.1 innings against California with just three hits allowed and nine strikeouts.
Look for his pitching to once again give the team a shot at the championship.
Japan's run through the tournament should come as no surprise. The nation has produced two of the last three World Series champions.
This year's squad is in a great position to compete for that title once again, as it remains unbeaten through three games. However, it will meet the team that came the closest to beating it in Mexico.
The Japanese team needed three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a 2-2 tie as the game drew to a close.
Player to Watch: Kazuki Ishida, P
Kazuki Ishida has had about as good a tournament as anyone not named Grant Holman thus far. The pitching dynamo has made an appearance on the mound in all three of the team's games and has two wins credited to his record.
With nine strikeouts in eight innings pitched, he's able to get a punch-out when the team needs him.
He's also the team's best power bat. With two home runs and three RBI in nine at-bats, he's a threat to go yard any time he's at the plate.
Much like New England on the United States side of the bracket, Mexico has shown a ton of heart to reach this point.
After losing to Japan in devastating fashion, the team bounced back to defeat Panama in extra innings on a two-run dinger from Jorge Romero.
Aside from the loss to Japan, Mexico won its first two games by a combined score of 25-0.
Player to Watch: Brandon Montes, 2B
Going against Ishida and Japan's pitchers will be difficult, but Montes should help his team in a big way.
Few batters have been hotter in South Williamsport. Montes is hitting .667 through four games with an incredible OBP of .750. What's more impressive is that he has a home run in all four of his team's games.
That's the kind of streak that will make Mexico a difficult team to beat twice in a row, which Japan will be trying to do on Saturday.
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