As if the opening salvos of the 2014 Little League World Series were not thrilling enough, Monday kicks things up another notch thanks to a slate that features five elimination games.
Lopsided blowouts that marred the opening stages of the tournament in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, are soon to be a thing of the past, as the teams that walk a tightrope between exceptional talent on the mound and explosiveness in the batter's box have made it through to this point.
With everything to lose, it is only right to expect the best the tournament has to offer as the players leave it all on the field in one of the most pure forms of sport.
Below, let's take a look at Monday's slate and nail down which teams advance and which teams head home to various parts of the globe.
Little League World Series: Day 5 Schedule
|Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Czech Republic vs. South Dakota||11 a.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Mexico vs. Australia||1 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Texas vs. Washington||3 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Venezuela vs. Puerto Rico||6 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Illinois vs. Rhode Island||8 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
Note: All of Monday's games are elimination games.
Czech Republic vs. South Dakota
The only match that seems to not be a highlight on the day's slate happens to be this one, a bout between two teams that have yet to record a victory.
The Czech Republic has lost its two contests by a combined score of 20-4, while South Dakota lost 12-2 in five innings to Nevada and then put up a better fight against Washington, still losing 7-5.
There is reason to watch, though, as South Dakota has plenty of talent that the final scores don't do justice. For example, Matthew Hegre is a special player who has put the squad on his back so far, as Chris Masse of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette details:
Hegre's side seems to get better each contest and really could have won its last game had a controversial out at home plate on a judgement call by the umpire not ended things. Expect Hegre and his team to roll.
Prediction: South Dakota 8, Czech Republic 5
Mexico vs. Australia
For Mexico, the tournament so far has been an up-and-down affair. A win over Canada to start things was great, but an encounter with the buzzsaw that is Japan landed the team at 1-1.
It has been the opposite tale for Australia, a team that was able to bounce back from a four-inning, 16-3 rout at the hands of Puerto Rico to upend the aforementioned Czech Republic, 10-1.
The spotlight in this one should fall on Mexico's Juan Garza, who continues to excel at the plate. Against Japan in a 9-5 loss, he tied for two game-high tallies thanks to a pair of hits and RBI.
As one of the most prestigious countries in LLWS history (it is one of a few with the most appearances for non-U.S. teams), Mexico is simply too talented in the key areas to lose Monday.
Prediction: Mexico 11, Australia 6
Texas vs. Washington
The aforementioned Washington overcame a tough opening loss with that win over South Dakota to give the players some semblance of momentum, something Texas certainly does not have after a heartbreaking 7-6 loss to Pennsylvania Sunday night.
Cole Smajstrla launched a three-run homer in the fifth inning, only to see a throwing error to first base in the bottom of the sixth inning give up the game's final run.
Still, there is something to be said for remaining competitive until the bitter end, and that 12-2 loss in five innings that Washington suffered is difficult to ignore. With a renewed sense of energy and a superior pitching staff, Texas will keep the dream alive.
Prediction: Texas 7, Washington 3
Venezuela vs. Puerto Rico
In a rather quiet manner, Venezuela might just be one of the top teams in the tournament.
The squad took the powerhouse that is Japan head-on and only suffered a 1-0 defeat. Obviously motivated, the team turned around and blew Canada out of the water in five innings, 10-0.
In that particular contest, Jose Luis Atencio was especially impressive on the mound as he tossed 4.2 innings and fanned six batters. For a staff that held Japan to one run, it was yet another note on the team's LLWS resume as things progress.
This is not entirely meant to dismiss Puerto Rico, a team that used Australia as a punching bag Thursday in a 16-3 win, but that explosive offense will be suffocated in the face of Venezuela's elite pitching.
Prediction: Venezuela 6, Puerto Rico 2
Illinois vs. Rhode Island
No two teams have been more difficult to figure out to this point.
Illinois shocked some and looked like a surefire contender with a 12-2 win over Washington—and then went out and lasted just four innings against Nevada in a 13-2 loss.
It is the same story for Rhode Island, sans the flashy scores. A 7-4 loss to Texas seemed an issue, but the team turned it around the next day with an 8-7 win over Tennessee.
Go ahead and label this one a coin flip. Illinois' propensity for an explosion must be taken into consideration, while Rhode Island has at least been consistent in the scoring department.
That consistency might be enough to get another win Monday, especially when one hears the words of Cumberland manager David Belisle, according to The Associated Press, via app.com:
"We play until the last out," Belisle said. "We want to have the last word. On days like this, it's a little different, but I've got the boys that do it."
That approach should do Rhode Island well with elimination on the table.
Prediction: Rhode Island 4, Illinois 3
Note: All statistics and info courtesy of LLBWS.org unless otherwise specified.