SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — Hawaii has played eight games at the Little League World Series over the last two years without a loss. This year’s team, the first ever from the island of Maui, will need to pick up two more wins to capture back-to-back titles.
First up is Louisiana. The teams will meet at 3:30 p.m. EDT Saturday at Lamade Stadium, with the victor earning a place in the championship game against either Curacao or Japan on Sunday.
STORY SO FAR: Looking to defend its title from last season, Hawaii sent Louisiana to the elimination bracket on Day 2 with a 5-2 victory. Neither team has lost since. In the three wins it needed to get here, Hawaii has found a variety of ways to get it done. The club from Maui rode Logan Kuloloia and Isaac Imamura to a 6-0 shutout of New Jersey then outslugged Virginia 12-9 to earn a spot in the U.S. title game. Hawaii has managed to score without hitting for power. Of its 26 hits over the course of three games, just one has left the yard.
Since squeaking out a 3-2 win over Oregon in its first elimination bracket game, Louisiana found a relatively smooth path to the U.S. championship that included 10-run-rule victories over Minnesota and Virginia, sandwiched around a 4-1 win against New Jersey. In five games at the LLWS, the Louisiana pitching staff has combined to limit opponents to just 1.6 runs per game. Louisiana has allowed one run in its last three games.
WHO TO WATCH: In 17 trips to the plate so far in the series, Louisiana’s Reece Roussel has made just four outs — good for a .765 batting average. With 13 knocks, he’s one hit away from tying the series record for hits, set by both Kiko Garcia and Bradley Smith. Roussel has hit for power, too. His five doubles are also one away from a series record, and he belted a grand slam against Virginia. Roussel’s six extra-base hits match the total Hawaii has posted as a team.
Hawaii coach Brad Lung calls his group a team without stars, but it looks like Hawaii has one on the mound. Jaren Pascual pitched six innings in the opener between these two teams without allowing an earned run. Louisiana crossed the plate twice thanks to a pair of Hawaii errors. He hasn’t pitched since, and should be well-rested if his number is called Saturday.
DID YOU KNOW: Louisiana has never made the Little League World Series title game, while Hawaii is looking for its fifth trip there since 2005.