Hawaii, South Korea perfect entering LLWS title showdown

Ji Hyung Choi celebrates with his teammates after hitting his third home run of the Little League World Series on Saturday. AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar

Over the past 10 days, Hawaii and South Korea have been the two most dominant teams in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, so it's only fitting they will meet for the Little League World Series championship on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ABC/WatchESPN)

The team from Honolulu Little League defeated Georgia 3-0 on Saturday to win the U.S. title and advance to the championship game. Hawaii has now made the LLWS title game in four straight appearances and is looking to become the seventh U.S. state to win at least three LLWS titles. The state won titles in 2005, when West Oahu Little League defeated Curacao, and in 2008, when Waipio Little League defeated Mexico.

Meanwhile, the team from South Seoul Little League held off Japan 2-1 in the international title game. South Korea has now made it to the championship game in five of six LLWS appearances. It won titles in 1984, 1985 and 2014, and lost in the championship game in 2016 to Maine-Endwell Little League from New York.

Pitching has been the difference for the two unbeaten teams. Entering Sunday's final, Hawaii pitchers have allowed just three runs in 28 innings of work, while the South Korean pitching staff has given up four runs in 25 innings.

History would seem to favor South Korea. U.S. teams are just 16-35 all time against international teams in LLWS championship games, and international teams have won five of the past six titles. Last year, Tokyo Kitasuna Little League from Japan defeated Lufkin Little League from Texas 12-2 in the title game.

In addition to the championship game, Georgia (Peachtree City American Little League) and Japan (Kawaguchi LL) will play in a consolation game at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN/WatchESPN. Georgia (4-2) suffered both of its losses to Hawaii, while Japan's only two losses came against South Korea.

What to know about South Korea

With Saturday's victory over Japan (3-2), South Korea (4-0) has an opportunity to win its fourth LLWS title. That would be the third most by an international team, trailing only Chinese Taipei (17) and Japan (11). South Korea has an overall record of 20-4 in the LLWS.

In the international final, Ji Hyung Choi led the way. He threw 78 pitches in 4 2/3 innings, allowing three hits and one run and striking out seven batters. He also belted a home run in his third straight game and is the only player with a hit, RBI and run scored in every game. In addition to hitting .636 in the LLWS, Choi leads all hitters in home runs (three), slugging percentage (1.455) and OPS (2.169) and is tied for the lead in RBIs (six) along with three other players.

Along with Choi, South Korea has gotten plenty of offensive contributions from Gi Jeong Kim (.455 BA, 1.208 OPS), Yeong Hyeon Kim (.956 OPS, five RBIs), and Shoo Hoo Choi (.444, 1.250 OPS).


South Korea gets on board with big solo HR

Ji Hyung Choi hammers a home run to give South Korea a 1-0 lead over Japan at the Little League World Series International Championship.

Due to his workload against Japan, Ji Hyung Choi is ineligible to pitch Sunday. South Korea manager Ji Hee Su said Yeong Hyeon Kim will be the starting pitcher, with Soo Hoo Choi set to appear in relief. Of the 29 outs Kim has recorded during the LLWS, 25 have come via the strikeout.

Kim made an incredible play to end the game Saturday. He caught a hard line drive back at the mound by Japan's Masato Igarashi and threw out Takumi Nakata at first base for a game-clinching double play.

Soo Hoo Choi has made one pitching appearance in the LLWS. He threw a six-inning complete game against Mexico last Sunday, allowing three hits and one run and striking out six batters. He is one of four players with a six-inning complete game in the tournament, joining Hawaii's Aukai Kea, Georgia's Jansen Kenty and Puerto Rico's John Lopez.

What to know about Hawaii

Hawaii (4-0) enters the championship game with the best team ERA (0.43) and run differential (plus-20) in the tournament.

In Saturday's win over Georgia, Aukai Kea turned in another dominating performance. Kea threw a complete-game, three-hit shutout with 15 strikeouts, the most in a U.S. or international championship game since the LLWS field expanded to 16 teams in 2001. The previous high was 14 by South Korea's Youbin Choi against Panama in 2016.

Kea, who is ineligible to pitch Sunday, threw 16 2/3 scoreless innings in the LLWS, allowing only six hits and three walks with 31 strikeouts -- the most by a player in a single LLWS since Japan's Takuma Takahashi struck out 35 in 2014.


South Korea advances to title game on amazing double play

South Korea wins the LLWS International Championship when the team's pitcher catches a line drive and throws to first for a game-ending double play.

Ka'lou Holt is the likely starter for Hawaii. He has made appearances on the mound in three of four games in the tournament, totaling 6 2/3 innings while allowing one run and striking out six. Dating back to regionals, Holt has thrown 15 1/3 innings, giving up three runs while striking out 24.

At the plate, Kea and Sean Yamaguchi have starred for Hawaii. Kea has gone 7-for-14 (.500), while Yamaguchi is 5-for-12 (.417) with a team-leading five RBIs and a .563 on-base percentage. Combined, they are hitting .462 (12-for-26) with nine RBIs, while the rest of the team is batting .182 (14-for-77) with eight RBIs.

In the U.S. championship game, John De La Cruz, Taylin Oana and Bruce Boucher were a combined 3-for-4 with two RBIs after going a combined 0-for-12 with zero RBIs and six strikeouts in their first three games.

Leadoff batter Mana Lau Kong was 0-for-3 in the U.S. championship game, but he ran up Georgia's pitch count. He saw 16 pitches in his first two at-bats of the game.

Justin Page and Jose De Leon of the ESPN Stats & Information Group contributed to this report.