Saturday is the most important day of action at the Little League World Series regionals to this point, as four teams will be able to clinch a spot in the main event at Williamsport, Pennsylvania, starting on August 20.
There are two other games taking place Saturday—in the Mid-Atlantic Regional and New England Regional—that will set up title games Sunday.
New Hampshire (New England) and Pennsylvania (Mid-Atlantic) have already secured spots in those title games thanks to their wins Thursday, giving them the luxury of sitting back for two days and watching the other teams get to them.
Thus far, the regionals have provided more drama and excitement than you can find at the movies. Three of the six games Friday were decided by one run, including two walk-off victories, so the six games on tap Saturday have a lot to live up to.
|2015 Little League World Series Regionals - August 15|
|Regional||Matchup||Result/Start Time (ET)|
|New England||Rhode Island vs. Vermont||Rhode Island def. Vermont, 7-1|
|Midwest||Missouri vs. Minnesota||Missouri def. Minnesota, 10-0|
|Northwest||Oregon vs. Idaho||Oregon def. Idaho, 15-3|
|Great Lakes||Kentucky vs. Wisconsin||Kentucky def. Wisconsin, 13-0|
|Mid-Atlantic||Maryland vs. New Jersey||New Jersey def. Maryland, 10-0|
|West||Southern California vs. Hawaii||Southern California def. Hawaii, 12-10|
Little League World Series Berths
|2015 Little League World Series U.S. Berths Clinched|
New Jersey def. Maryland, 10-0
Three multi-run innings and a one-hitter from pitcher Tommy Cartnick, who also had eight strikeouts, carried New Jersey to a 10-0 victory over Maryland in the Mid-Atlantic Regional.
New Jersey had two three-run innings and a four-run third inning to reach the 10-run limit needed to enforce the mercy rule. Jake Wendell and Sean Slusak were the offensive stars, going a combined 5-for-6 with three home runs, one double, seven RBI and five runs scored.
This was an excellent rebound game for New Jersey, which was blown out 13-3 by Pennsylvania on Thursday. The two teams will meet again on Sunday with a chance to reach the Little League World Series on the line.
Kentucky was able to avenge a loss against Wisconsin earlier in the day, so recent history is on New Jersey's side.
It will be a tall task because Pennsylvania has been impressive with two wins by a combined 24-5 score. New Jersey's bats will have to come out red hot once again and the pitching needs to be in control of the strike zone early to keep this game close.
Kentucky def. Wisconsin, 13-0
After a scoreless first inning, Kentucky exploded for eight runs in the second inning and scored five more over the next two innings to earn a 13-0 shutout win over Wisconsin.
This was a dramatic turnaround for these two teams, who played on Thursday with Wisconsin winning 10-0 in four innings.
In fact, Kentucky has had its back up against the wall a lot lately. It followed up that shutout loss against Wisconsin by being held scoreless for five innings against Ohio in an elimination game Friday before finally coming alive with four runs for a walk-off win.
The win gives Kentucky a spot in the Little League World Series, as well as the state's first team to reach Williamsport since the 2011 team reached the second round.
Tayshaun Jones had the big hit for Kentucky in that second inning, blasting a grand slam to make the score 5-0. That was one of two extra-base hits for the Bluegrass State team; Eli Burwash had a two-run double in the fourth inning.
Kentucky also got a tremendous start from Burwash, who allowed three hits, had seven strikeouts and needed just 43 pitches in four innings.
Now that Kentucky seems to have found a formula that works, this looks like a dangerous group heading into the big tournament. It can't get off to a slow start like in games this week against Wisconsin and Ohio, but as long as the end result is the same, no one will remember.
Oregon def. Idaho, 15-3
Oregon saved its best game for last, using an 11-run outburst over the final two innings en route to a 15-3 win against Idaho. The victory gives the Oregon team a spot in the Little League World Series.
The offensive barrage was nothing new for Oregon, which scored at least 10 runs in all four Northwest Regional games.
The Idaho pitching staff helped out Oregon's hitters, as four pitchers combined to walk 12 over six innings. That's why Oregon only needed 10 hits to score all of its runs.
Cooper Shaw provided the final blow with a grand slam in the top of the sixth to cap the scoring. He finished the day 2-for-4 with that home run, four RBI and one run scored.
Spencer Scott got the scoring started for Oregon with a two-run shot of his own in the first inning. Starting pitcher Kaden Segel was solid, allowing three runs on six hits over five innings.
Idaho did have opportunities with six hits and four errors by the Oregon defense. The score was 4-3 in favor of Oregon after four innings before the floodgates opened.
The regional win gives Oregon its first team in the Little League World Series since Gresham advanced to Williamsport in 2012. That team was eliminated in the first round, going 0-3, but this year's group has shown a rare ability to hit under any circumstances and will be very dangerous.
Missouri def. Minnesota, 10-0
Missouri's dominance of the Midwest Regional continued on Saturday, as the Show-Me State kids needed just four innings to defeat Minnesota by the 10-run mercy rule and reach the Little League World Series.
After the win, Missouri gathered for the traditional team photograph, via Little League's official Twitter account:
In fact, over four games in the regional, Missouri scored at least 10 runs in all of them and won three of them by at least 10 runs. The offense kept bringing the pressure, while the pitching staff was able to hold its own.
All of the damage on Saturday was done by the top four hitters in the lineup. Cale McCallister, Blake Smith, Devrin Weathers and Cole Gayman combined for eight of the team's nine hits, all six RBI (four runs were unearned) and eight of the 10 runs scored.
McCallister was also effective on the mound, tossing a complete-game four-hitter with three strikeouts.
It was clear from the first game of the Midwest Regional when Missouri beat Iowa 11-3 that this was the team to beat. The players held up their end of the bargain and will now get to compete for Little League's biggest prize.
Rhode Island def. Vermont, 7-1
For the second time in the New England Regional, Nick Mason played the hero for Rhode Island. This time, his efforts led the team to a 7-1 win over Vermont to set up a showdown with New Hampshire for the right to play in the Little League World Series.
Mason, who had a grand slam and threw two shutout innings in relief against Massachusetts on Thursday, had an RBI single and came within one out of a complete-game shutout. He finished with seven strikeouts and no walks on the mound before a high pitch count forced him out.
Vermont was able to avoid the shutout in the bottom of the sixth thanks to two singles followed by an error from Rhode Island shortstop Dylan Demers.
Rhode Island's lineup was balanced in the victory, with eight players recording at least one hit and seven players driving in one run.
The combination of dominant starting pitching and timely hitting for Rhode Island was impressive, and it will be needed Sunday against a New Hampshire team that has won its two games by a combined score of 27-6.
Southern California def. Hawaii, 12-10
Southern California entered the bottom of the sixth inning protecting an eight-run lead, but a furious rally by Hawaii nearly derailed the team's hopes of advancing to Williamsport.
After Southern California padded its five-run lead with three more in the top of the fifth, Hawaii appeared to be done for good. However, the home team rattled off six runs with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning to draw within two before its dreams were dashed.
The loss notwithstanding, Hawaii should be proud of its late-game efforts.
Hunter Sasaki and Sage-Manuel Koahou each drove home two runs, while Vincent Ogasawara, Charles Winchester and Vance Oshiro tacked on an RBI apiece.
As for the winners, Jacob Baptista went 3-for-4 with three RBI, including a two-run dinger in the top of the fifth.
Antonio Andrade served as Southern California's workhorse on the mound, striking out four and walking two over the course of two innings. He also didn't allow an earned run during that stretch.
With the win, Southern California emerged as West Regional champions.
And considering the Californians are headed to Pennsylvania having scored a combined 23 runs over their last two outings, competing clubs should be wary of impending showdowns with arguably the tournament's most high-powered offense.