As the final weekend of the 2014 Little League World Series begins, it feels more like an event this year than ever before. A lot of it has to do with the appearance of Mo'ne Davis, who is no longer around, but the attention she brought has elevated the rest of games.
Whatever reasons fans have had for watching, it's nice to see one of the most compelling and fun sporting events of the year get the attention it deserves. Now, while there's not one single star at Davis' level, the four teams still playing are more than worth talking about.
To give you more preparation for Saturday's two championship games, we have a look at the schedule and what to watch for when the pitches start flying.
|Date, Time (ET)||Matchup||Network|
|August 23, 12:30 p.m.||International Championship: South Korea vs. Japan||ABC|
|August 23, 3:30 p.m.||United States Championship: Las Vegas vs. Chicago||ABC|
Will Japan's Offense Show Up Against South Korea?
It's easy to forget about South Korea in the Little League World Series. In addition to being a foreign country, it has to contend with being the second-best undefeated team, behind Las Vegas, still playing.
South Korea also plays with such an unassuming style, solid fundamentally and scoring runs when it's prudent, that it is easy to forget how good the team is. However, it would be a mistake to ignore what the team is doing.
Fortunately, South Korea will get its chance on a national stage against Japan. It doesn't hurt that the South Korean kids defeated Japan, 4-2, on Wednesday in one of the most exciting games of the Little League World Series.
What would be the best story for Sunday's championship game?
What's been most impressive about South Korea's run is that there's no single category you can lump the team into. If the game requires the offense to score a lot of runs, it scores eight against Puerto Rico. If pitching is the overwhelming theme, four pitchers allow just two runs against Japan.
For Japan, the loss against South Korea is its only blemish at Williamsport. The kids from Tokyo defeated Mexico twice, scoring 21 runs, and got a brilliant pitching performance from Takuma Takahashi against Venezuela in the team's opener.
The bad news for Japan is that its offense has failed to show up in games against anyone other than Mexico. It could muster just one run against Venezuela, though Takahashi's brilliance on the mound made sure that was enough, while South Korea allowed only six hits in its victory.
Unless Japan gets a stellar pitching performance Saturday, it will be hard for the team to keep up with South Korea. It's a matchup of two teams that play strong fundamental baseball, but South Korea has proved to be more consistent.
Does Chicago Have The Pitching To Slow Down Las Vegas?
In her final pitching performance at the 2014 Little League World Series, Davis ran into the buzzsaw that is Las Vegas. For a state that has never sent a team to Williamsport, Nevada has a great shot to capture a championship because of how dominant the offense has been.
Through three games, Las Vegas has outscored its opponents 33-5. ESPN Stats & Info noted on Twitter how balanced the insane offensive attack has been for the kids from Nevada prior to the matchup with Pennsylvania:
Nevada has 3 players hitting .800 or better in first 2 games of LLWS & has outscored opponents 25-4 in those 2 games pic.twitter.com/mEWSEoTq7V— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 20, 2014
Chicago hasn't been a slouch with the aluminum, racking up 28 runs through four games, but even it couldn't keep up with the potent Las Vegas lineup in a 13-2 romp for Nevada on August 17.
The only way a team is going to beat Las Vegas is by keeping it from scoring runs. Trying to match the team run for run hasn't worked for anyone thus far. Based on previous results, though, it doesn't look like Chicago has what it takes to hold Vegas down.
Aside from its 12-2 win against Washington in the opener, Chicago has given up at least five runs in every game and 25 in the last three overall.
There's a reason South Korea and Las Vegas are undefeated heading into Saturday's games. It would be a massive upset if that didn't end up being Sunday's battle for the World Series Championship.
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