The penultimate day of action at the Little League World Series will determine the two teams that will do battle for the championship on Sunday.
Before getting to that sure-to-be-epic showdown, though, the United States and international sides had to crown champions. Both games were close affairs won on walk-offs, with Japan knocking off Mexico 1-0 in extra innings and Pennsylvania giving the home crowd a lot to cheer about with a 3-2 win against Texas.
Both of Saturday's games were rematches from earlier in the tournament, with Japan and Pennsylvania also winning the first time around. Those are the only two teams to make it through the bracket undefeated, so it's fitting they would be meeting for the championship.
|2015 Little League World Series Scores: August 29|
|Matchup||Result/Start Time (ET)|
|Mexico vs. Japan||Japan def. Mexico, 1-0 (F/7)|
|Texas vs. Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania def. Texas, 3-2|
|2015 Little League World Series Schedule: August 30|
|Game||Matchup||Date||Start Time (ET)||Network||Live Stream|
|3rd-Place Game||Mexico vs. Texas||Sunday, August 30||10 a.m.||ESPN||Watch ESPN|
|Championship Game||Japan vs. Pennsylvania||Sunday, August 30||3 p.m.||ABC||Watch ESPN|
Pennsylvania def. Texas, 3-2
Pennsylvania has won games in every possible way this tournament, from blowouts to pitching duels. The kids from Red Land Little League got their second walk-off victory of the LLWS, this one a 3-2 win over Texas, thanks to an opposite-field single off the bat of Chayton Krauss.
Speaking after the game, Krauss went up to the plate with a plan based on what he had seen from Texas starter Ryan Farmer earlier in the game, via the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).
"It felt awesome and it was amazing to get that hit and it felt great," Krauss said. "I just remember that he had a decent fastball and decent curveball and I got a fastball and just drilled it."
Thanks to his game-winning RBI, Krauss got to take part in the customary postgame Gatorade shower, via Little League:
The crowd at Williamsport had plenty to celebrate. As ESPN Stats & Info noted, it's been a long time since a team from Pennsylvania won the national championship:
Before Krauss got the chance to play hero, Cole Wagner continued his red-hot hitting performance with a solo homer in the first inning.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, no player at the 2015 Little League World Series has been better than Wagner at providing power:
Even though there were some offensive fireworks, this was a pitching duel the entire way. Wagner started for Pennsylvania, striking out 11 in 5.2 innings and allowing two runs on three hits. He was nearly matched pitch-for-pitch by Farmer, who allowed three runs on two hits and two walks with six strikeouts in five innings.
Texas' offense just never had an answer for Pennsylvania's pitching staff. Pearland West managed eight hits and two runs in two games against the newly crowned U.S. champions.
The showdown between Pennsylvania and Japan on Sunday is an appropriate finale to what has happened over the last eight days. These two teams proved their dominance against the rest of the world, combining for an 8-0 record.
Pennsylvania has adjusted well as games have gotten more difficult. It started the tournament with an 18-0 win over the Midwest on August 21 and nine against the Southeast two days later, but it has been held to just six runs in the last two games.
The Red Land team has been the most complete team in the 2015 LLWS. It's a fundamentally sound group with just two errors in four games, and it has dominant pitching and a powerful offense led by the best home run hitter playing.
Those skills will be tested against a talented Japan team in what figures to be a tremendous matchup of two teams that understand and embrace the stage they will play on.
Japan def. Mexico, 1-0
Things got off to a marvelous start in Williamsport on Saturday, with Japan defeating Mexico 1-0 to win the international championship game despite being no-hit by Armando Verdugo for six innings.
This is a familiar spot for Japan at the Little League World Series, as SportsCenter noted:
Japan scored the game-winning run with one out in the bottom of the seventh when Koki Jo grounded into a fielder's choice. Mexico shortstop Jorge Armenta made a terrific diving stop to keep the ball in the infield and flipped to second base for one out, but there was no time to get Jo at first.
Verdugo will be given the loss, but he was brilliant for Mexico throughout the day. The right-hander allowed just two hits and one walk, and he had 10 strikeouts.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, with Japan avoiding the no-hit bid, the Little League World Series hasn't seen a no-hitter in either championship game since 1993.
Not to be outdone, Japan starter Kabu Kikuchi allowed only four hits while striking out 10 in seven innings.
Speaking through a translator after the win, via ESPN.com, Kikuchi had a good reason for wanting to pitch one of the best games of his life.
"I knew today was going to be my last day as a Little League pitcher, so I put 100 percent of my energy into every single pitch," Kikuchi said through a translator. "The Mexican pitcher was very good, so I tried not to allow any runs."
There were only two extra-base hits in the game, both doubles, with one coming from each team. Mexico's Daniel Zaragoza was the only player to record more than one hit.
Looking ahead to Sunday's title game for Japan, the country has won nine Little League World Series titles, including three of the last five.
For the Tokyo Kitasuna Little League team, specifically, this marks its fourth championship game appearance since 2001. It previously won in 2001 and 2012, losing only to Georgia in 2007.
Japan's run through this Little League World Series has prepared the team to win another title. Its last two games have been one-run wins, and Japan has proved to be capable of winning both low-scoring games, such as Saturday's win, or offensive games, such as its victory 7-5 over Asia-Pacific in the opening round.
That chameleon-like ability sets Japan up well to take on Pennsylvania—a team that has thrown two shutouts thus far. A Little League team that can be no-hit for six innings yet still find a way to win a game has poise and maturity beyond its years.