Teams from Puerto Rico and California will play for the world championship in the 13- and 14-year-old division of Little League Baseball during the 39th annual Junior League Baseball World Series at Noon Sunday at Taylor’s Heritage Park.
The Radames Lopez Little League junior all-stars from Guayama, Puerto Rico, broke a streak of six straight JLWS titles by Asia-Pacific teams from Chinese Taipei with an extra-inning walk-off single on Friday. The win gave the national champions of Puerto Rico the tournament’s International championship as well.
The Golden Hill Little League junior all-stars from Fullerton, California, are 3-0 entering the World Series finale. The Southern California state champions secured the USA championship with a 7-2 win over Southeast champion Melbourne, Florida.
Heritage Park is located at 12111 Pardee Road. Admission is $5 per carload, which includes parking. The world championship game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Puerto Rico enters the World Series finale 4-1, avenging its only defeat of the eight-day tournament to Chinese Taipei. California, which had a bye early in the week, is the only undefeated team left at 3-0.
Teams from Puerto Rico have won five JLWS world championships, the last coming in 1999 – 20 years ago. USA West regional champions have won 10 world titles in the 39-year history of the JLWS, the last coming in 2019 – 10 years ago.
In more recent years, Chinese Taipei teams have dominated the JLWS, earning a spot in the series the last 10 years and winning the world championship seven of those years, including a six-year streak that came to an end this year. In fact, Friday’s loss to Puerto Rico was the first suffered in the World Series by Chinese Taipei since 2012.
The World Series for teams of 13- and 14-year-old players from around the globe is run in a “modified double-elimination format.” Teams play until they lose twice. At this point in the tournament, it becomes a single-elimination event with the winners advancing.
The Junior League Baseball World Series is considered the “older brother” of the more famous Little League World Series for 12-year-olds that is played in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The JLWS was founded in Taylor, Michigan, in 1981 by a group of Little League enthusiasts and volunteers – and has been played at Heritage Park ever since. Greg Bzura has remained director since its inception.
Twelve teams started the World Series last Sunday – six in the USA Pool and six in the International Pool. Besides California and Florida, the USA teams were Michigan District 5 champion and Host team Taylor, Michigan; East region champ Berlin, Maryland; Southwest region champ Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Central region champ Johnston, Iowa. Besides Chinese Taipei and the national champions of Puerto Rico, the International Pool includes Latin America champ Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico; the Australian national champ from Perth, West Australia; the Europe-Africa region champ from Bologna, Italy; and the Canadian national champ from Medicine Hat, Alberta.
Home Run Derby
Alejandro Arrendondo of Mexico won the annual Junior League World Series Home Run Derby on Friday. Cole Loftis of Taylor was runner-up. The other six finalists were Drew Thorning of Taylor, Appollos Horrell of Florida, Adiel Rivera of Puerto Rico, Nicola Spagnolo of Italy and Cesar Monjaras and Alejandro Gutierrez.
Guayama, Puerto Rico 4, Taoyuan City, Chinese Taipei 3: The national champions of Puerto Rico stunned the six-time defending world champions from Chinese Taipei, 4-3, to win the International title and advance to the Junior League World Series final game at noon Sunday. In the seventh inning, Chinese Taipei was leading 3-1 and was one out away from repeating as International champ when Puerto Rico’s Nathan Martinez hit a two-run homer to tie the game at 3-3 and send the game to extra innings. In the bottom of the eighth, Eric Rodriguez singled home the winning run. Puerto Rico struck first on a double steal in the second inning. Chinese Taipei tied it in the third when Wang Wei Lun stole home. Lun went 2-for-4 in the game to lead the Asia-Pacific champs. Martinez was 2-for-4 for Puerto Rico. Adiel Rivera earned the victory in relief. The win by the Puerto Rico boys from the Radames Lopez Little League avenged a loss earlier in the week to the team from the Shing-Ming Junior Little League. Puerto Rico improved to 4-1. Chinese Taipei finished the JLWS 3-1.
Fullerton, California 7, Melbourne, Florida 2: The USA West champions from the Golden Hill Little League became USA champs with a 7-2 win over the Southeast champs from the Viera Suntree Little League in Melbourne, Florida, on Friday night. The Southern California state champions got on the scoreboard first in the third inning when Eric Jeon doubled home Kyle Kim. They scored five runs in the fourth inning that made the difference. With the bases loaded on two walks and a hit batsman, Conor Sunderland singled home Dustin Staggs and Jack Bender to make it 3-0. Kim doubled in Walker Calvo. And Sean Gonnella doubled home Sunderland and Kim to make it 6-0. The Florida state champions countered with solo runs in the fourth and fifth to cut the lead to four. Cameron Simpkins singled home Logan Keith in the fourth. Then, Keith singled home Cameron Ruston in the fifth. West padded its lead with run on an error in the seventh. Florida actually outhit California 9-6 with Keith leading the way with a 3-for-3 night. Jeon was the starting pitcher, allowing two runs through five innings to earn the win. Kim pitched the last two scoreless innings. Golden Hill (3-0) remains the only undefeated team in the 39th annual JLWS. Viera Suntree finished the World Series 3-2 and was 15-2 overall in post-season play.