08/23/08 8:20 PM ET
Little League teams set for finals
Mexico, Hawaii square off for right to be named champion
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com
Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Team: Matamoros, Mexico
Coach: Gustavo Gomez
Series record: 5-0
The skinny: Ask Venezuela coach Freddy Moran whom he thought would win the Little League World Series, and Moran points to Mexico. No reason to dispute Moran, because Mexico does look as if it as the strongest and deepest of the two teams remaining in the Series. Gomez's boys are hammering the baseball for a .393 average, but what might be their signature here has been the pitching. How good has it been? The staff has held opposing hitters to a .172 average. An opponent has a difficult go of it when good hitting and great pitching confront them.
"Our team has 14 players," Gomez said through a translator. "All are here for a reason. We're confident in our bench. I know I can count on them."
The players on the bench have produced heroics whenever Gomez has called on them. It was a bench player (Carlos Balboa, who celebrates his birthday on Sunday), in fact, who eliminated Venezuela from the Series.
Players to watch: Pick one of the Rodriguez boys on Gomez's team and you're likely to find one of the best players. Emmanuel and Sergio both are batting above .400, and Sergio Rodriguez has three homers as well. But the player to watch for Mexico on Sunday is right-hander Jesus Sauceda. In a 12-strikeout performance, he pitched a perfect game in the Series. He'll get the start in the championship game. Sauceda, who worked a 1 1/3 innings on Saturday against Japan, has not allowed a run.
Coach: Timo Donahue
Series record: 5-0
The skinny: Opposing coaches have praised Hawaii for its sound, aggressive play, and it isn't undeserved praise, either. The club should also get some props for its refusal to quit, which it showed in beating a good Lake Charles, La., team. The boys from Waipahu, Hawaii, have made two errors in the World Series, which should prove that Hawaii isn't a team that's prone to giving runs to its opponents. Looking at this aspect of the team tells a lot, but so does a look at its offense. An opponent might want to look hard at the offense if it's dissecting Donahue's team. For that offense has been pounding the baseball at a .322 clip, though it hasn't shown much power. The team has compiled 31 RBIs, and those runs have been produced from almost any spot in the batting order. Yet, as coaches have said, you can't think solely about offense and expect to win the World Series. You need pitching, and Donahue has gotten good pitching from his weakened staff. Against Mexico, the starter will be Caleb Duhay, who's 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA in the tournament. But does Donahue have enough healthy arms behind Duhay to beat Mexico?
Players to watch: Infielder Pikai Winchester might be the best hitter in the tournament. His .692 average includes three homers and nine RBIs. Winchester has an on-base percentage that's better than Albert Pujols' (.750). But Winchester has plenty of support in Tanner Tokunaga, Kainoa Fong and Ulumano Farm, all of whom are batting at least .444.
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.