Where EAST meets the Northwest
TOP TEAMS. Honolulu, Hawai‘i pitcher Ka‘olu Holt (top photo, right, #14)
celebrates with teammate Aukai Kea (#23) after getting the third out in the
first inning of the Little League World Series Championship baseball game
against South Korea in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. In the bottom photo,
the toss from South Korea catcher Gi Jeong Kim (not seen) gets away from pitcher
Yeong Hyeon Kim (#14), who was covering home on a wild pitch, which allowed
Honolulu’s Zachary Won to score from third base in the third inning. Hawai‘i won
the final game, 3-0. (AP Photos/Gene J. Puskar)
From The Asian Reporter, V28, #17 (September 3, 2018), page 13.
Hawai‘i is the best of the three Asian teams atop this year’s
Little League World Series
By Mike Street
Special to The Asian Reporter
Few sporting events are as thoroughly dominated by Asian and Asian-American
teams as the Little League World Series. It’s been 10 years since an Asian team
didn’t win the International Bracket, and 18 years since a Little League World
Series (LLWS) championship game featured neither an Asian nor Asian-American
So it came as no surprise that a team from Honolulu, Hawai‘i, met a team from
Seoul, South Korea, in this year’s Little League World Series championship game.
And while Asian-American sports fans were hoping for an exciting battle, they
witnessed instead a victory by a squad from Hawai‘i that tore through this
year’s tournament bracket.
Hawai‘i’s most exciting tournament game was its first, against a formidable
team from Peachtree City, Georgia. The two starting pitchers, Georgia’s Jansen
Kenty and Hawai‘i’s Aukai Kea, racked up a total of 22 strikeouts and just six
hits between them for nearly six innings.
The teams’ relievers kept the game at 0-0 until the bottom of the 11th
inning, when Kea (who had shifted to third base) slugged a two-run, game-winning
home run. The game was the longest in Little League World Series history, and it
was also the closest that any team came to defeating the mighty Hawai‘ians.
Hawai‘i’s next opponent, the team from Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, did
something no other team did at this year’s tournament. They scored, pushing a
run across in the first inning to take an early lead. Then Hawai‘i exploded in
the second inning, scoring six times, and also adding two more runs in the third
inning. Michigan rallied for two runs in the sixth, but it wasn’t enough, and
the Honolulu team won, 8-3.
Staten Island faced Hawai‘i next, but they could only muster one hit against
the combination of Kea and Ka‘olu Holt on the mound. On offense, the players
from Honolulu pounded Staten Island for 10 runs, including a grand slam from
second baseman Sean Yamaguchi.
In the U.S. Championship game, Kea again took the hill for a rematch against
Georgia. This time, both teams went scoreless for the first three frames before
Honolulu’s John De La Cruz drove home Hunter Nishina on a single to center.
Hawai‘i added two more in the fifth, but they didn’t need them, because Kea was
dazzling, whiffing 15 batters in a complete-game shutout, walking one and giving
up only three hits, to lead his team to the LLWS championship game.
On the other side of the bracket, South Korea also needed extra innings
against their first opponent, the team from Puerto Rico. South Korea tied the
game in the sixth and final inning, scoring two runs on a single and double
steal. The two squads stayed scoreless for two more innings before South Korea
again scored twice. Ji Hyung Choi was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, and
Gi Jeong Kim singled to bring the second run home. Puerto Rico could not rally
in their half of the ninth, so South Korea won 4-2.
Against their next opponent, Mexico, South Korea scored on an error in the
first inning and never looked back. They added two more in the fourth inning on
a single by catcher Ji Hong Jeon and a bases-loaded walk by second baseman Jae
Hyeok Lee. Mexico narrowed the lead with an RBI (Run Batted In) single in the
bottom of the fourth, but pitcher Ji Hyung Choi salted the game away in the
sixth with a two-run homer, giving South Korea a 5-1 victory.
South Korea’s third and fourth games were against the same opponent, Japan,
but the two games couldn’t have been more different. South Korea won the first
matchup, 10-0, in just four innings due to the Little League 10-run "mercy"
rule, with Yeong Hyeon Kim allowing just one hit on the mound.
In the next game, the international championship, South Korea scored twice in
the first inning on a solo homer from starting pitcher Ji Hyung Choi and a
double from third baseman Shoo Hoo Choi. It looked like they would keep their
momentum going from the first game, but that’s all they would score.
Japan’s starting pitcher, Shisei Fujimoto, gave up just one more hit after
that, striking out eight. Ji Hyung Choi was even better, holding Japan scoreless
for four innings before Yeong Hyeong Kim relieved him and surrendered an RBI
double that was Japan’s only tally. Kim held Japan to just one more hit, and
South Korea advanced to the championship game to face Hawai‘i.
Kim returned to the mound to start the final game for South Korea, while
Hawai‘i countered with Ka‘olu Holt, who hadn’t pitched since relieving four days
before. In his three previous games, Holt had given up just one run in almost
seven innings of work.
He was even better against South Korea.
In the top of the first inning, South Korea’s leadoff hitter, Jae Hyeok Lee,
reached first base on a beautiful bunt down the third-base line. That bunt
single and Jae Woo Myoung’s two-out single in the fourth inning were South
Korea’s only hits of the game. They were baffled by the wicked breaking ball
from Holt, who struck out eight and walked only one in a six-inning
Hawai‘i provided offense with their first opportunity, when first baseman
Mana Lau Kong hit a home run off Kim’s very first pitch. Kim rarely looked
comfortable after that, constantly working out of trouble. In the third inning,
he allowed two runs on a wild pitch and a throwing error from his catcher, Gi
Jeong Kim. Yeong Hyeong Kim settled down in the fourth, and Choi relieved him in
the sixth without allowing another run, but the damage had been done, and
Hawai‘i won 3-0.
An excellent Hawai‘i team, led by stellar pitching performances, deservedly
won this year’s all-Asian Little League World Series championship. And down in
the consolation bracket, Japan won third place to make it an Asian sweep of the
three top spots. No matter which team wins, Asian-American sports fans are
rarely disappointed by the Little League World Series.
Read the current issue of The Asian Reporter in its entirety!
Go to <www.asianreporter.com/completepaper.htm>!