By SPENCER RIPCHIK Associated Press
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — California will take on Curacao in the Little League World Series championship on Sunday after both teams worked their way into the title game from the elimination bracket.
Here’s a look at both teams.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Curacao didn’t have an easy path to the championship. Last year’s runner-up lost to Taiwan and then had to beat Mexico to get another shot at the Taiwanese.
In the rematch Saturday, Curacao beat Taiwan 2-0 to win the international bracket and move to the final. Taiwan brought in ace Fan Chen-Jun, who was the talk of the tournament for throwing 81 mph, as a reliever in the fourth inning. But the first two hitters who saw Fan singled and later scored.
California had a similar road to get to the championship. California lost to Texas 3-1 earlier in the tournament. The West representative then beat Tennessee and Washington to get another chance to play Texas.
Louis Lappe had five RBIs, including a three-run homer on Saturday as California got its revenge on Texas and won the U.S. bracket 6-1.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
California has some of the biggest bats in the tournament. The top five hitters in its lineup are the five best: Louis, Brody Brooks, Jaxon Kalish, Lucas Keldorf and Max Baker.
“Their batting average is just stupid,” California’s manager Danny Boehle said. “You have to deal with those five guys, and can they get out? Absolutely. That’s baseball. But more or less, these five guys have made this team what it is today. They’re so strong and so scary.”
Louis and Brody have the most home runs in the tournament with four from Louis and three from Brody, who had a solo shot in Saturday’s semifinal.
The top of Curacao’s lineup also is its biggest strength. Jay-Dlynn Wiel and Nasir El-Ossais each have homers in the tournament and they had the singles off Fan. Curacao center fielder Joshua Acosta Fernandez has made multiple diving catches.
On the mound, Jay-Dlynn has earned three wins for Curacao and threw just nine pitches in Saturday’s semifinal, so he will be available.
Curacao has appeared in the LLWS championship four times and has won it once, in 2004. Its most recent appearance was last year, when it lost to Hawaii 13-3.
The Caribbean representative also has five players returning from last year’s squad, the most in the tournament.
“It’s helped the other guys keep calm,” Curacao’s manager Zaino Everett said. “It’s so great to have five guys back here.”
California has been in the championship game 24 times and has been crowned champions seven times, which is the most by any U.S. team, but hasn’t won since 2011.