After more than a week of exciting action, the thrilling conclusion of the Little League World Series will take place on Sunday as Japan looks to defend its title against Chula Vista, Calif.
Both teams are a perfect 4-0, and while they have faced their fair share of adversity throughout the tournament, they have shown enough mettle to push through it and excel.
Every player involved has had a hand in that to some degree, but a few of them have stood out in particular. It's possible that some of these kids could go on to become professional athletes, but if they come through in the clutch on Sunday, they will forever be remembered for doing so. Just ask former Stanley Cup-winning NHL star Chris Drury, who led Trumbull, Conn., to the Little League World Series title in 1989.
Will this year's championship game produce the next Drury? It's possible, and here are three players with the best chance to gain Little League World Series immortality.
While plenty of hype surrounded Michigan's Chad "Swag Daddy" Lorkowski early in the Little League World Series due in large part to his size, California has produced an even bigger and better player in the form of Grant Holman. Lorkowski and Holman actually went head-to-head in an incredible pitching duel earlier in the tournament, and while Lorkowski let up just one hit, Holman tossed a no-hitter, guiding his team to victory.
Truth be told, Holman has done a little bit of everything for Chula Vista in this tournament. Not only has his pitching been spectacular, but he has also been swinging a hot bat. According to SportsCenter, he has already accomplished three incredible feats in the Little League World Series, which likely makes him the envy of every other player.
Holman puts California in prime position to win its eighth Little League World Series title, as the team didn't have to use him as a pitcher in its 12-1 rout of Connecticut in the American final. The Japanese lineup is formidable, but Holman has looked unhittable for large stretches of the tournament.
California has to be considered the favorite heading into the title game.
Japanese outfielder and leadoff hitter Takuma Gomi has just two hits in the Little League World Series. That statistic makes it seem as though he is struggling, but that hasn't really been the case when you consider that both of his hits left the ballpark.
He came through with the biggest hit of the tournament thus far on Saturday, when he led off the top of the sixth inning against Mexico with a solo shot to give Japan a 3-2 lead, which it never relinquished.
That long ball led to Japan qualifying for the Little League World Series final, so it's possible that Japan would be playing in the third-place game if not for him.
Gomi's flair for the dramatic could come in handy on Sunday as Japan is likely to have some trouble getting hits off Holman. Every hit is going to count, and nobody has made the most of his hits in this tournament more so than Gomi.
Even if he doesn't go yard, he could be an important table-setter for the Japanese team. Sometimes all it takes is a blooper, a steal and a couple of sacrifices to win a game against an ace pitcher like Holman. If Gomi can find a way to get on base in some fashion, he has the speed to wreak havoc on Holman and California. Whatever the case, he is definitely worth watching in the championship game.
Although Holman is considered by most to be Chula Vista's best player, Nick Mora has made a compelling case for himself as well.
He pitched his team into the championship game on Saturday by shutting down Connecticut. He pitched 5.2 innings before reaching the 85-pitch limit, and he allowed just two hits and one run while striking out 10. He also added a three-run homer for good measure, according to MyFoxNY.com.
Mora finished the game with two hits, three runs and four RBI, so he almost single-handedly led his team into the title game.
He will make way for Holman on the mound against Japan, but he could still play a big role in a title-winning effort if he is able to replicate his performance at the plate.
Mora is somewhat of a utility player when he isn't pitching, but there's no question that the coaching staff will find a spot for him on the infield for Sunday's game. Like Holman, he can impact the game in a number of different ways, so he'll definitely be a factor.
If he plays anything like he did on Saturday, California will be celebrating yet another championship.
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