After weeks of thrilling youth baseball, it's down to two teams who will battle it out on Sunday for the Little League World Series title. With victories on Saturday, Japan grabbed the International spot and Waipahu, Hawaii won the U.S. championship.
Japan slipped past Chinese Taipei, 3-2, in early action. After Natsuki Mizumachi struck out six batters in five innings, Japan got two scoreless innings of relief from its bullpen. Ryo Motegi singled in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh.
Hawaii, meanwhile, advanced with a 10-0 win over Pearland, Texas, in the U.S. championship. The team from the Aloha state scored early and often -- with Noah Shackles hitting a two-run homer to center to cap a four-run first. Shackles went 2-for-2 with three runs, while left-hander Ezra Heleski allowed just two hits for Waipio Little League from Waipahu -- which is aiming to win its second tournament crown in three years.
Second round results in U-12 division
Second-round action in the 12-under circuit kicked off on Saturday with another full day at the National Youth Baseball championships.
Tomball, Texas, 8, Lumberton, N.C., 7
The squad from Tomball, Texas, continued its roll in Cordova, Tenn., on Saturday -- showing off its offensive prowess one day after its pitching put on a clinic. Both starting pitchers allowed six runs apiece, as the offenses once again got off to a fast start and ruled the game. Tomball's Christian Sanchez capped off a three-RBI game with a solo homer in the sixth inning to down Lumberton.
Paramount, Calif., 12, Lamiranda, Calif., 2 (four innings)
Paramount used a 12-run first inning to rout Lamiranda. Bryan Duenas, Matthew Green, William Aguilar and Isaak Gutierrez all homered for Paramount in the opening frame.
Dallas, Texas. 6, Ocala, Fla., 4
Ryan Choate had three hits and an RBI, while Easton Murrell added three RBIs to help lead Dallas past Ocala. Julian Vasques picked up the win after allowing two runs over four innings.
Miami, Fla., 10, College Station, Texas, 4
Brandon Chinea just missed the cycle, as he led Miami past College Station. Chinea went 3-for-3 with a home run, a triple, a double and three runs scored. Pablo Cabrera added two hits, two runs, and two stolen bases.
Conway wins U-10 Youth tourney
In the U-10 division, Conway, Ark. won the Youth Baseball Championships with two wins on Saturday -- including their 7-6 win over Houston in the finals. Conway advanced earlier in the day with a 5-2 win over Palm Harbor, Fla., while Houston made the finals after a 13-6 rout over Miami.
Houston 13, Miami 6
Offense stole the show in this semifinal contest, as both starters struggled to put away hitters. However, Houston's 1-2-3 hitters exploded to go 6-for-11 -- adding to a seven-run outburst in the second frame.
Conway, Ark., 5, Palm Harbor, Fla., 2
In a tournament that has highlighted offensive prowess, Conway starter Jordan Wicks allowed just one run in four innings while striking out four. Tyler Cleveland came on in relief and shut down Palm Harbor's offense -- allowing just one additional run.
Conway, Ark., 7, Houston 6
Conway, powered by a five-run second inning, captured the tournament with a nail-biting victory over Houston. Connor McCullough went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and also came in as a reliever to nail down the last two outs to preserve the win for Conway.