The best teams to date at the 2014 Little League World Series took the diamond Sunday in a series of battles that provided fans the best baseball of the spectacle thus far.
Most of the teams in action blew the competition out of the water over the course of the tournament's opening days, but met equal competition on Sunday. As expected, lopsided contests were rare as a result.
Below fans will find a look at how Sunday's contests unfolded and the official standings after four days of action.
Day 4 Scores
|Team 1||Score||Team 2|
|South Korea||8-5||Puerto Rico|
|Asia-Pacific - Seoul LL - Seoul, South Korea||2-0|
|Australia - Perth Metro North LL - Perth, Australia||1-1|
|Canada - South Vancouver LL - Vancouver, British Columbia||0-2|
|Caribbean - Miguel Luzunaris LL - Humacao, Puerto Rico||1-1|
|Europe-Africa - South Moravia LL - Brno, Czech Republic||0-2|
|Japan - Tokyo Kitasuna LL - Tokyo, Japan||2-0|
|Latin America - Coquivacoa LL - Maracaibo, Venezuela||1-1|
|Mexico - Guadalupe Linda Vista LL - Guadalupe, Nuevo León||1-1|
|Great Lakes - Jackie Robinson West LL - Chicago, Illinois||1-1|
|Mid-Atlantic - Taney Youth Baseball Association LL - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||2-0|
|Midwest - Canyon Lake LL - Rapid City, South Dakota||0-2|
|New England - Cumberland American LL - Cumberland, Rhode Island||1-1|
|Northwest - Lynnwood Pacific LL - Lynnwood, Washington||1-1|
|Southeast - South Nashville LL - Nashville, Tennessee||0-2|
|Southwest - Pearland East LL - Pearland, Texas||1-1|
|West - Mountain Ridge LL - Las Vegas, Nevada||2-0|
Day 4 Recap
Japan 9, Mexico 5
For two teams that hardly escaped their first games of the tournament with one-run victories, Japan and Mexico entered Sunday ready for another close affair.
They got it, to say the least.
Mexico started things off with two runs in the opening frame, while Japan did not get on the board until the bottom of the second with three runs. The two sides were clearly evenly matched and went into the fifth inning tied at five apiece.
Japan then took over and never looked back thanks to a four-run outburst in the bottom of the frame.
Shozo Kamata and Hayato Ueshima led the way for Japan with two RBI apiece. On the mound, Joichiro Fujimatsu went three innings and struck out eight batters. Suguru Kanamori was right behind him with seven fanned batters of his own.
The contest was the perfect example of just how quickly things can change in the tournament itself, as game-changing rallies seemed to be the theme of the day. Japan and South Korea are now on a collision course in the next portion of the bracket.
Nevada 13, Illinois 2
For a team that needed just five innings to dispatch of Washington in 12-2 fashion Thursday, Illinois was a favorite by many to roll through the tournament.
Sunday, the team that hails from the Great Lakes got rolled by Nevada.
Brad Stone set the tone of the contest in the first inning with a grand slam and went on to lead all batters with those four RBI. Illinois responded with a run in the bottom of the first and second frames, but Nevada's three-run third inning and five-run fourth invoked the mercy rule, something Lisa Horne of PigskinGrind.com had asked for much earlier:
When is the Mercy Rule going to be invoked? Nevada is destroying Illinois 10-2 ^4 in LLWS— Lisa Horne (@LisaHorne) August 17, 2014
Brennan Holligan went all four innings on the mound for Nevada and struck out six batters. As if the team does not look dominant enough, ESPN Stats & Info provided historical evidence that says Nevada is well on its way to a title:
Nevada: improves to 2-0 in Little League World Series 6 straight (and 11 oflast 12) LLWS champions started the tournament 2-0— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 17, 2014
For Illinois, the team can take solace in the fact they are not eliminated. Nevada did not need any more momentum, but got it anyway.
South Korea 8, Puerto Rico 5
These two teams in particular have set the tone for the tournament after a thrilling comeback in the final two frames saw South Korea through to the next portion of the bracket.
South Korea blew past the Czech Republic in a 10-3 affair Thursday, while Puerto Rico needed four innings later that day to dispatch of Australia, 16-3. Sunday's affair gave off the early impression that Puerto Rico would roll yet again after taking a 3-0 advantage after two innings and a 5-1 lead into the top of the fifth.
That's when South Korea woke up.
Led by Dong Hwan Ahn's three RBI, his side rattled off seven runs over the course of the game's final two innings to pull off the stunning comeback. The contest was chippy in those frames, and umpires had to dish out warnings to both sides.
As Ken Schott of The Daily Gazette notes, things almost got out of hand a few times:
South Korea batter dropped his bat and was ready to charge the mound. #LLWS— Ken Schott (@slapschotts) August 17, 2014
The clear-cut MVP of the contest was South Korea's Jae Yeong Hwang, who put in 2.1 innings of work, dished a game-high five strikeouts and also registered a pair of hits and RBI at the plate.
If the quality of the contest is any indication, the rest of Sunday's slate is sure to be an entertaining affair.
The duel between Texas and Pennsylvania to end the day in particular is a contest to catch. Both teams get by on fundamental, defensive baseball with great efforts on the mound.
Pennsylvania 7-6 Texas
Philadelphia's Taney Youth notched a comeback 7-6 victory over Texas' Pearland East to round out the action on Sunday night in Williamsport. Zion Spearman scored the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning on a Texas throwing error.
WPVI-TV's Jeff Skversky posted a photo of the huge crowd that showed up to support the young local heroes:
WOW! Over 32,000 fans in Williamsport for Taney vs. Texas at the Little League World Series pic.twitter.com/Lj8JQUV84P— Jeff Skversky (@JeffSkversky) August 18, 2014
Taney Youth were up 3-2 heading into the fifth frame. Jared Sprague-Lott had been pitching quite well for Taney, notching eight strikeouts in his effort, but things unraveled for him in the fifth. Pearland put up four runs in the top of the fifth inning, and it looked like Mo'Ne Davis and company would be the ones facing elimination after Sunday.
The Taney Youth players never got down on themselves, and they managed to scrape together two runs in the bottom of the fifth to make the score 6-5.
After a strong relief effort from Erik Lipson, the stage was set for the sixth-inning comeback. Spearman proved to be the hero Taney Youth needed. His RBI triple with two outs tied the game for Taney Youth, and he came around to score the winning run on Tai Shanahan's infield grounder, who reached first safely thanks to the errant throw.
The Philadelphia Inquirer's Mike Jensen expressed just how proud the city is of it's young stars out on the diamond:
Closest Taney comparison, in terms of Philly going crazy for a sports entity you never heard of a month ago ... Smarty Jones.— Mike Jensen (@jensenoffcampus) August 18, 2014
Spearman spearheaded the Taney Youth offense, collecting two RBI on the night. Cole Smajstria was very impressive in the losing effort, leading all players with four RBI.
Note: All statistics and info courtesy of LLBWS.org unless otherwise specified.