By Will Desautelle and Ethan Roy
The 73rd Little League Baseball® World Series has its International and U.S. Championship games set. Pabao Little League, representing the Caribbean Region, will meet the Japan Region Champions, Chofu Little League for the right to face either Southwest Region winners Eastbank Little League from River Ridge, Louisiana, or West Region representatives, Central East Maui Little League from Hawaii. Here is a tale of the tape for the final four teams.
Southwest Region (Eastbank Little League, Louisiana) vs. West Region (Central East Maui Little League, Hawai’i)
- Saturday, August 24th
- 3:30 p.m., Howard J. Lamade Stadium
- Broadcast: ABC Television
- LLWS Record: 3-0
- Manager: Brad Lung
Path to LLBWS U.S. Championship
2019 is the first time ever that a team from Maui is representing the state of Hawai’i at the LLB® World Series.
Hawai’i has won five U.S. championships, tied with Florida for the second-most since the U.S. title game was established in 1976. California leads all states with 14 victories. The state of Hawai’i is seeking its sixth appearance in the LLBWS Championship Game where they are 3-2 all-time. Hawai’i’s three Little League Baseball World Series titles, places the state among a group of seven U.S. states to win at least three LLBWS championships. Should it win a fourth title that would be tied for the second-most all-time among U.S. states, trailing only California, which has won seven.
Saturday will be the second match-up of the tournament between Hawai’i and Louisiana. Hawai’i claimed a 5-2 win in the first meeting. Hawai’i then shutout New Jersey 6-0 followed by a thrilling 12-9 win over Virginia to punch its ticket to the U.S. Championship.
This is the fifth time the state of Hawai’i has made it to Williamsport since 2005. With a second victory over Louisiana on Saturday, all five of those teams will have made it to the Little League World Series Championship Game. Three won it all – including last year when Honolulu Little League defeated South Korea, 3-0, in the world title game.
Players to Watch
Jaren Pascual – Pitcher, Outfielder, Infielder
Pascual is the most improved player on the team from a year ago and has been a force both on the mound and at the plate in this LLBWS. His only pitching appearance came in the team’s opening game against Louisiana where he threw a complete game without allowing an earned run. At the plate, he is 3-for-9 (.333) with the team’s only home run of the tournament and a double. His three RBIs and four runs are both tied for the most on the team in this LLBWS.
Logan Kuloloia – Pitcher, Outfielder, Infielder
The crafty left-hander, in one appearance on the mound, pitched 3.1 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out three batters. At the plate he is 3-for-6 (.500) and his three RBIs and four runs are tied with Pascual for the team lead.
It is difficult to pinpoint any one or two key players for this Hawai’i because their depth both at the plate and on the mound has been their greatest strength:
- Of the four teams remaining in the tournament, Hawai’i has four pitchers (Pascual, Kuloloia, Bransyn Hong, and Isaac Imamura) who have thrown at least 2.2 innings and have yet to allow an earned run. The next closest team is Japan with three such pitchers. Hawai’i pitchers have thrown a first pitch strike 67% of the time in this LLBWS.
- Six different Hawai’i players have at least three hits in the tournament. Furthermore, Hawai’i’s bottom four hitters have totaled more hits (14) than its top five hitters (12).
Hawai’i is hitting .310 with runners in scoring position. Fast starts have been key to its three wins, scoring at least one run in the first inning of every game and totaling 10 first-inning runs.
With the exception of Kaedyn Miyake-Matsubayash (eligible Sunday), Hawai’i has its entire pitching staff available for Saturday.
- LLWBS Record: 4-2
- Manager: Scott Frazier
Path to LLBWS U.S. Championship
Eastbank Little League has dominated the state of Louisiana since 2015, winning five consecutive Louisiana state championships during that time span. The team combined to outscore its opponents 79-0 in its district and state tournaments this summer. Eastbank cruised through the Southwest Region tournament, going 4-0, and outscoring its opponents by a combined 27-8. Eastbank’s four wins in this LLBWS are the most ever by a Louisiana team.
After a 5-2 loss to Hawai’i in its opening game of the LLWS, Louisiana has strung together four consecutive victories, outscoring opponents 27-3 over those four games.
Thursday night against Virginia’s Loudoun South Little League, representing the Southeast Region, Marshall Louque threw the 55th no-hitter in LLBWS history and only the second ever by a Louisiana team.
Prior to this year, Louisiana’s best run at the LLBWS was in 2008 when South Lake Charles Little League reached the U.S. title game but lost to Waipio Little League from Hawai’i. That’s the only other time Louisiana played in a U.S. Championship Game. Louisiana is seeking its first trip to the Little League World Series Championship Game.
Players to Watch
Reece Roussel – Outfielder
Roussel is the hottest hitter in the tournament. He is 13-for-17 (.765) in the World Series and is now just one hit shy of matching the LLBWS record for most hits in a single World Series. The current record of 14 is shared by Bradley Smith (California, 2012) and Kiko Garcia (California, 2009). He is also one double away from tying Smith’s record of six doubles in a single LLBWS.
Connor Perrot and William Andrade – Pitchers
With Louque not eligible to pitch for the remainder of the LLBWS, along with staff ace Egan Prather being unavailable until Sunday, expect to see one or both of Perrot and Andrade on the mound for Saturday. Perrot has thrown 3.2 innings allowing a single earned run, while Andrade hasn’t allowed any earned runs in 4.1 innings. The two have combined for six strikeouts to just one walk.
Marshall Louque – Third Baseman, Catcher, Pitcher
Louque threw the no-hitter to get Louisiana to the U.S. Championship. Manager Scott Frazier has called Louque maybe the best Little League player he has ever coached in 20 years. Although he has been relatively quiet at the plate, hitting just 4-for-16 (.250), he has three doubles and is tied for the tournament lead with seven runs.
- Louisiana pitchers have allowed two hits and no earned runs in 11 innings during their last two LLBWS games. The Louisiana pitchers have also struck out 18 of the 39 batters (46%) they have faced during that span.
- The Louisiana pitching staff as a whole has an ERA of 0.69 in this tournament, which is the best among all teams. Louisiana gave up five runs in its first game of the tournament against Hawai’i, but since that loss, Louisiana has allowed just three runs in its last 21 innings.
- Nine different Louisiana players have multiple hits in this tournament including four players with at least four hits. In the win over Virginia, nine different players recorded at least one hit.
The first match-up was a thrilling game and much closer than the 5-2 final score indicated. In the top of the 6th inning, Roussel nearly tied the game with a three-run home run to right field that pulled just foul.
Hawai’i will have an advantage with all of its top pitchers being available, while Louisiana will not have its top two arms available to pitch Saturday.
Both teams have outstanding depth. Hawai’i has not lost in three games during this LLBWS, but Louisiana is the hottest team in the tournament entering Saturday. It will be interesting to see if the extra rest Hawai’i has earned will serve them well or if the rhythm Louisiana has gotten into from playing three games in the past four days will continue into Saturday.
Japan Region (Chofu Little League, Japan) vs. Caribbean Region (Pabao Little League, Curaçao)
- Saturday, August 24th
- 12:30 p.m., Howard J. Lamade Stadium
- Broadcast: ABC Television
- LLWBS Record: 3-0
- Manager: Koji Yamashita
Path to the LLBWS International Championship
Chofu Little League is representing Japan in the country’s 30th Little League Baseball® World Series appearance, the most of any country or state in attendance. the team from Chofu City is one of two Leagues in Williamsport with a World Series title under their belt.
This marks Chofu Little League’s third trip to the Little League Baseball World Series, with their last coming in 2016. Their first came in 1976, which ended in a LLBWS Championship. Coach Makoto Nagase was a catcher on that team, and can become the only person in history to win the Little League Baseball World Series as a player and a coach.
In 2016, this league lost their first two games to Canada and Curaçao. This is not the same quality of team as in 2016. After going 4-0 in the Japan Region Tournament and defeating Ushiku Little League, 8-0 in the Japan Region Championship, the momentum has carried over to Williamsport.
In the Region Championship, Chofu Little League outscored their opponents, 37-1. Through three games, and three victories, at the Little League Baseball World Series, the team continued that trend, outscoring its opponents 32-2 through three games. The only two runs surrendered came on two solo home-runs, both against South Korea. In fact, in three games, only three opposing batters have even reached scoring position, and none of them have scored.
Playing in its ninth International Championship in the last 10 years, Japan has won the LLBWS Championship in each of the last four times it has reached the title game.
Players to Watch:
Yuto Kakeba – Left Field, Pitcher
Dubbed the team’s best power hitter by manager Koji Yamashita, Yuto Kakeba has certainly looked the part through three games. With seven hits in nine at-bats, Kakeba’s .778 batting average leads all players across both championship games. Kakeba and Curaçao’s Clay Winklaar lead the field with eight RBIs, and he’s second in extra-base hits (7) and third in total hits (7). On the mound, he’s been equally devastating. Going 1-0 in two appearances, he has allowed just one hit, and has nine strikeouts in 4.1 innings of work. With eight runs batted in and no runs allowed, he’s played a large part in the historic run differential.
Yuto Misaki – Third Base, Pitcher
Misaki is the ace of the Chofu Little League pitching staff. He’s pitched in all three of Japan’s games to this point, recording two saves and one win. In 5.1 innings, he’s surrendered just one hit and struck out nine. His five RBI at the plate are second to his teammate Kakeba on the team.
This pitching staff has been nothing short of dominant. With consecutive shutouts to open the Series, they became the fifth Japanese team to not allow a single run through two games. The pitching staff’s combined 29 strikeouts are behind only Curaçao (30) and Louisiana (35) for most in the World Series. The team ERA of 0.71 is behind only Lousiana (0.69) for lowest in the field.
Japan’s .143 opposing batting average is the best of all teams remaining.
Leading the field in batting average (.403), and runs per game (10.7), Japan’s plus-30 run differential through three games is the largest mark since Venezuela in 2007, and the second largest all-time by a Japanese team. The only Japanese team to be better was the 1976 LLBWS Champion Chofu Little League, with a plus-36 run differential.
With only two runs allowed thus far, Chofu Little League is the seventh Japanese team to allow two or fewer runs in its first three World Series games. Five of the previous six teams went on to win the Little League Baseball World Series Championship.
Japan is the only team that has not yet committed an error.
- LLBWS Record: 4-1
- Manager: Michelangelo Celestina
Path to the LLBWS International Championship
Pabao Little League of Curaçao is the other team in the field with a Little League Baseball World Series Championship to its credit. This marks the league’s ninth appearance in Williamsport, the most of any league by a wide margin (Emilia Little League of Italy is second with 4).
After securing a LLBWS trip with an 8-3 win over Pariba Little League in the Caribbean Region Championship, Pabao Little League returned to the Little League Baseball World Series for the first time since 2009.
This team has been carried by its pitching staff. In 10 of 11 games dating back to the Caribbean Region Tournament, Pabao Little League has held its opponents to three or fewer runs and allowed just 1.5 runs per game.
After defeating Australia, 11-0, in round one, the team stumbled versus Asia-Pacific, 4-0, in game two. Prevailing in three straight elimination games, the team reached the International Championship. The Pabao Little Leaguers outscored their opponents by total of 22-6 over three straight games, including an avenging semifinal win against the Asia-Pacific team from South Korea.
Players to Watch:
Jurdrick Profar – Pitcher, Catcher, Shortstop, Third Base, Center Field
Jurdrick Profar is the third Profar brother to not only appear in the Little League World Series, but to reach the International Championship. His oldest brother, Jurickson, won the 2004 Little League Baseball World Series and was runner-up one year later. His middle brother, Juremi, reached in 2007, but team lost to Japan. The youngest of the Profar brothers has done it all for Curaçao so far, including a commanding 8-strikeout performance on the mound in the International Semifinal. He will be ineligible to throw for the rest of the Series, but his contributions at the plate are just as important. He’s 6-for-13 so far and his 6 runs scored are good for second on the team, behind only Curley Martha (7).
Curley Martha – Shortstop, Pitcher
Martha has arguably been the MVP of this Curaçao team so far. He’s atop the leaderboard alongside South Korea’s Jinwon Na in runs (7) and home runs (2), and his eight hits are good for second behind only Reece Roussel of Louisiana, who has 13. On the mound, he’s 1-1 with a save, and has fanned eight batters in five innings. In the International Semifinal, he recorded his fourth multi-hit game of the tournament, second to only Reece Roussel’s five, and struck out all five batters he faced in a 25-pitch save.
Clay Winklaar – First base, third base, pitcher
Clay Winklaar hasn’t pitched in the World Series, and he’s just 3-13 at the plate. However, his eight RBIs lead his team and are tied for the most in the World Series (Yuto Kakeba). Winklaar is just 3-for-13 but his hits have been timely. Six of his eight RBI have come with two outs, the most two-out RBI this tournament.
Curaçao has the second lowest opposing batting average in this tournament at .146. Only Japan’s is lower (.143).
Clay Winklaar’s grand slam was just the second in Curaçao’s LLBWS history. The first came off the bat of Juremi Profar in 2008.
With a win in the International Championship, Curaçao can become the first team in history to beat Japan and South Korea in a single Little League Baseball World Series.
The last nine International Champions have hailed from either the Japan Region or South Korea Region. This is the first time since 2007 that a Caribbean team has reached the International Championship.
Curaçao’s three home runs are tied with Japan and South Korea for the most this year. The team’s 30 strikeouts trail only Louisiana’s 35 for most in this World Series.
There will be no shortage of available pitchers in this game. Japan, with three days of rest since their last game, will have everyone available. Curaçao, meanwhile, will have everyone ready except for Jurdrick Profar, who maxed out at 85 pitches in their semifinal win against South Korea.
The days leading up to the International Championship have gone very differently for these teams. Japan, with three off days, took some time to go sightseeing. On the flip side, Curaçao has just one day of rest after winning three straight elimination games.
Curaçao struggled with errors in their first two of games, but tightened up its defense in the International Semifinal, with no defensive miscues. Competence in the field could decide the result in this one, with Japan being the only team to not commit an error thus far.
Both teams are in the top-five in batting average and opposing batting average.
Regardless of the winner, a former Little League Baseball World Series champion will have a chance to take home a second crown.