Japan vs. California: Little League World Series 2013 Championship Preview

Tim KeeneyContributor IAugust 25, 2013

Aug 21, 2013; Williamsport, PA, USA; California (West) player Grant Holman (17) celebrates hitting a home run with teammates during the ninth inning against Connecticut (New England) at the Little League World Series at Lamade Stadium. California defeated Connecticut 6-3 in 9 innings. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in three years, it will be a team from Japan and a team from California in the Little League World Series championship. 

Of course, that's not exactly surprising. Japan is second behind Taiwan with eight all-time championship victories, while California is right behind with seven. These two regions are hotbeds for young baseball talent. 

After a thrilling 3-2 win over Mexico in the international championship, the Musashi Fuchu Little League team has a chance to make it two straight winners from Tokyo, but it won't be easy with the Eastlake Little League squad from Chula Vista, CA in the opposite dugout.

The West region representatives outscored opponents 65-8 during regionals and have followed that up with a 36-7 domination in four LLWS wins. That's just not fair. 

With each side oozing talent and both undefeated through the tournament, this figures to be a fascinating battle for one of sports' most unique championships. 


When: Sunday, Aug. 25, at 3 p.m. ET

Where: Howard J. Lamade Stadium, South Williamsport, Pa. 

Watch: ABC


Japan Player to Watch: Kazuki Ishida

Slowing down California's formidable lineup won't be easy, but if anyone's up to the task, it will be Kazuki Ishida. 

He has pitched 9.0 innings in Japan's four LLWS games so far, giving up just one earned run on eight hits and one walk while striking out nine. Moreover, he only accumulated 10 pitches during Saturday's win over Mexico, so he will be free to start on Sunday.

And while he is most effective on the mound, Ishida might just be able to help his own cause, too, as he has blasted two home runs and drove in three in Williamsport. 


California Player to Watch: Grant Holman

Every summer there are a select few little leaguers who put together heroic, transcendent performances and are remembered for a long time. 

The one on top of that list this year is undoubtedly Grant Holman. 

He got the tournament started with a seven-inning no-hitter against Michigan, striking out 13 in the process. He followed that up with a grand slam against Delaware. Then it was a mere game-winning three-run home run in extra innings to send his team to the United States championship.

Holman finally had a quiet game in California's win in the championship (A hit, two runs and an RBI is quiet for him), but that probably just means another massive performance is on the horizon. 

He didn't pitch on Saturday, so he'll likely take the mound where he has some filthy stuff, and at a towering 6'4," he's a threat to go yard every single time he steps into the batter's box. 

Nick Mora's big game at the plate and on the mound on Saturday were crucial, but no one is capable of affecting the game like Holman. 


Prediction: California 5, Japan 2

In 10.2 innings, Holman has given up three runs, but he has also struck out a ridiculous 23 batters. He is extremely overpowering, and the Japan bats will have a tough time getting anything going now that the big man has several days of rest. 

Ishida will keep the game close, but California's lineup is too deep not to cross the plate a few times.