The four best teams at the Little League World Series will face off on Wednesday, and some of the best storylines from the tournament thus far and breakout stars will face off.
While none of the teams in play will be eliminated with a loss, the winners are guaranteed a place in the U.S. and World finals—one step away from the finals—so these contests are a huge deal, especially with talented teams from Illinois and Mexico awaiting the loser.
Below, we'll take a look at the schedule and make predictions about the day's games.
|3 p.m.||South Korea vs. Japan||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|7:30 p.m.||Nevada vs. Pennsylvania||ESPN||WatchESPN|
Pennsylvania over Nevada
Nevada has outscored its first two opponents by a 25-4 margin, ending both games early through the mercy rule. But it hasn't faced Mo'ne Davis yet.
The Pennsylvania ace is the first girl to have ever thrown a shutout in LLWS history. She's the first little leaguer to ever appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And she's kept pretty amazing perspective about on her newfound stardom, per David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News:
This is great, from Mo'Ne Davis pic.twitter.com/5IzX98CtUw— David Murphy (@ByDavidMurphy) August 20, 2014
Davis is no flash in the pan. Her fastball touches 70, she mixes in two other pitches and her demeanor on the mound never changes. She's cool as a cucumber. And she'll need to be against a Nevada team that can really swing the bat, led by slugger Austin Kryszczuk.
All Kryszczuk has done thus far is go 5-for-6 with two home runs, six runs scored and four RBI. Oh, and he's also pitched 2.2 innings, giving up two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out six. He and his teammates have turned more than a few heads, including ESPN's Stuart Scott:
#LLWS team from Vegas could contend for MLB wildcard. They field & they rake hard. Austin Kryszczuk looks/swings/hits like a big leaguer.— Stuart Scott (@StuartScott) August 17, 2014
Traditionally in baseball, a great pitcher trumps a great offense. Can Mo'ne be money once again?
Don't bet against her.
Prediction: Pennsylvania wins, 3-2
Japan over South Korea
What a game this should be.
Outside of Davis, the best pitching performance we've seen has come from Japan's Takuma Takahashi, who pitched a six-inning gem against Venezuela in Japan's opener, holding the South American side scoreless while giving up just one hit and striking out 14.
That's right, he whiffed 14 of the 19 hitters he faced. Even he was a bit surprised by that performance after the game, per Kurumi Fukushima of ESPN:
While Takahashi was the hero in Japan's first game, the bats came alive against a very good Mexican team—which has survived the loser's bracket, it should be noted—beating that squad 9-5.
South Korea's bats have been alive in both of its games, as it's outscored opponents 18-8. But the South Koreans also haven't faced a pitcher as talented as Takahashi. If we're giving Pennsylvania the edge because of its ace, well, you can probably see where this is going.
Prediction: Japan wins, 2-0