Perhaps the biggest story of the Little League World Series is the journey of the Jackie Robinson team from Chicago, Illinois. The team qualified for a trip to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for the first time since 1983, but just getting there wasn't enough.
The all-African-American squad has fought their way to the championship game. Their ethnicity is significant because of the declining amount of African Americans currently playing in the major leagues.
There's hope that the attention these youngsters are getting could ignite a more widespread interest in the sport in every neighborhood in the United States.
After losing the first meeting with Mountain Ridge Little League of Las Vegas 13-2, the Chicago squad will get another crack at Las Vegas with a spot in the world title game on the line.
If Chicago is going to keep its dream alive, it must avoid giving up the big inning. In the first game against Las Vegas, Chicago allowed four first-inning runs and played catch-up the rest of the way. It can't afford to do that in the rematch.
Manager Darold Butler sounds confident, per Paul Skrbina of the Chicago Tribune.
We don’t lose to teams and not repay them. We want revenge. We’re gonna stick to the script. Don’t be surprised if we win that game tomorrow. I won’t be. I’m going off how the players are talking and behaving. They really believe they can win the whole thing. We are looking forward to playing an international team Sunday.
The winner of that game will face the team that prevails in the International division.
The undefeated team from Seoul will battle Tokyo Kitasuna from Japan. The South Korean team has outscored its opponents 20-10 in its three games.
In fact, it beat the Japanese squad 4-2 in the double-elimination portion of the tournament. Just like the Jackie Robinson team, Tokyo Kitasuna will be looking to avenge its only loss in Williamsport.
In what figures to be another low-scoring affair, defense and clutch hitting could be the deciding factors.
Japan made a costly error in the first game, and Jae Yeong Hwang came up with a big two-run single in the sixth to give South Korea the lead. The team that comes through in the clutch and makes the routine plays in the field will win.
Here's a look at one player to watch on each of the final four teams.
Full schedule available at LLBWS.org.
Jackie Robinson of Chicago - Joshua Houston
While Pierce Jones earned the early spotlight with a 4-for-4, three-homer performance in the Chicagoan's first game, Houston has actually been the most consistent.
Aside from hitting .538 with seven RBI in five games, Houston has also been a handful on the mound. In 11 innings pitched, he has only allowed one earned run and has struck out 14.
The Jackie Robinson team has won all three games he's started on the mound.
Mountain Ridge of Las Vegas - Austin Kryszczuk
In the first meeting with with Chicago, Austin Kryszczuk crushed two home runs to spur on the rout.
The Chicago team isn't the only squad to feel Kryszczuk's wrath. He's hitting a robust .727 in Williamsport with six RBI and four extra-base hits.
If he can continue to pound the ball the way he has throughout the Little League World Series, the Las Vegas team will be tough to contain.
Seoul - Jae Yeong Hwang
Doing a little bit of everything, Hwang has been the spark plug for the Korean team. On the mound, he owns a victory, a save and he's struck out 15 batters in just 6.1 innings pitched.
At the plate, he's been even better. Hwang is hitting .556, and he's homered in all three of the South Korea's games. It seems Hwang will find a way to put his stamp on the game one way or another.
Tokyo Kitasuna - Takuma Takahashi
The strikeout machine in this year's LLWS has been Takahasi. He's struck out 24 batters in just 9.2 innings pitched.
He's also hitting .556 and has been a nice table-setter for his teammates. Takahashi has scored a total of four runs in the LLWS. As a pitcher, he allowed two runs in the first game against South Korea.
Takahashi could very well get a second crack at the South Koreans in the International title game.
Stats per GC.com (download required).
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