South Korea completed its undefeated run in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a world championship on Sunday. The South Koreans knocked off the scrappy and inspiring Jackie Robinson West squad from Chicago, Illinois, 8-4.
After losing to Mountain Ridge of Las Vegas earlier in the LLWS, JRW and its coach, Darold Butler, wanted another crack at the team in the U.S. Championship Game.
Per Paul Skrbina of the Chicago Tribune, Butler said:
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 team got its wish and came through with the 7-5 win to earn a shot at South Korea in the world championship. Unfortunately for the Chicagoans, South Korea would not be denied.
South Korea had thumped Japan 12-3 to punch its ticket into the title game.
In the consolation game, Mountain Ridge looked spent emotionally, and Japan's ace hurler didn't make things easy on them.
Facing one of the most potent lineups in the LLWS, Takuma Takahashi tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout, striking out 11. He also went 2-for-3 at the plate, including a home run.
Japan easily prevailed 5-0.
That's the bottom line, but how did each final score come about?
Pitching to Contact Is Tough in Little League
For all of JRW's strengths (speed, resilience and slick fielding up the middle), the team's pitching staff lacked a real strikeout pitcher it could lean on against big-hitting teams.
In the major leagues, that's not quite as big of a weakness, but in Little League, where the fields are small and the players are kids, balls put into play can easily leave the yard or get mishandled by fielders.
Against South Korea, JRW recorded just six strikeouts. With hitters as skilled as South Korea's Dong Wan Sin and others, JRW could have benefited from missing a few more bats.
No More Juice
Mountain Ridge's loss to JRW was tough and emotional. The team seemingly had the game under wraps before the Chicagoans rallied to win 7-5 late.
Several of Mountain Ridge's players, including Austin Kryszczuk and Brennan Holligan, were visibly shaken by the loss. The two were a combined 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Sunday.
Quite honestly, they never seemed to be into the game on Sunday. Professional teams sometimes have a hard time bouncing back from tough losses. It's understandable that it would be tough for a Little League squad.