SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — Jae Yeong Hwang drove in two runs and Hae Chan Choi weathered a late Chicago rally to lead South Korea to an 8-4 win in Sunday’s Little League World Series championship game.
Hwang gave up one hit in two-plus innings while striking out four. He also drove in the Asia-Pacific Region champs’ first two runs as they built an 8-1 lead before Jackie Robinson West made it close.
Choi, who had a homer and scored twice, pitched the last four innings for South Korea, which won its third title after back-to-back championships in 1985 and ’85.
International teams have won the last three and four of the last five titles.
Brandon Green went 5 2-3 innings for Chicago, which had survived four straight knockout games before the final.
Dong Wan Sin scored twice, including a solo homer, for the South Koreans.
After the final out, a force play, the Seoul team’s bench emptied and the players dumped cups of water on their teammates near the mound. The players took a victory lap, waving and laughing.
The game was played in bright sunshine and temperatures in the high 70s before a crowd of 28,671 at Lamade Stadium.
South Korean fans, brightly dressed in flowing satin robes of yellow and electric blue, danced with large fans in the latter innings.
Chicago, the Great Lakes Region champions, came back from 3-0 and 5-4 deficits to beat favored West champ Las Vegas Mountain Ridge 7-5 in the U.S. title game on Saturday. Earlier, South Korea, the Asia-Pacific Region winner, rolled over Japan, 12-3.
But they couldn’t come back against the powerful South Koreans, who asserted themselves early.
Leadoff hitter Choi drilled the very first pitch over the wall in right, but a few feet foul. He then flied out deep to right.
Dong Wan Sin followed by smacking a screaming liner to center that slipped out of the glove of DJ Butler for a two-base error. Hwang’s double brought in the first run.
They made it 2-0 in the third. With one out, Choi walked and Sin singled sharply up the middle. After a double steal, Choi came home on Hwang’s ground-out to third.
Meanwhile, Hwang set down the first six Chicago hitters, four on strikeouts.
Butler broke up Hwang’s no-hitter with a spinning cue shot to short that he beat out leading off the third. That was all for Hwang — one scrub hit — who had thrown two innings the day before. He traded places with first baseman Choi as Seoul manager Jong Wook Park continued his philosophy of throwing multiple pitchers each game. No South Korean pitcher had gone even three innings in a game at the World Series until Choi in the championship game.
Shortstop Ed Howard greeted Choi with a bouncer to the mound that was scored a single, prompting the first prolonged chants of “U-S-A!” for the day. Choi then fanned Cameron Bufford before leadoff hitter Pierce Jones — who had three homers in the LLWS opener but was just 1 for 12 since — walked to load the bases with one out.
That brought up Trey Hondras, who had a homer and three RBIs in the U.S. final, and his high hopper to second on a nice grab by Jin Woo Jeon scored Butler. The rally died when Marquis Jackson bounced out sharply to third on the next pitch.
South Korea came right back to tack on a run in the top of the fourth. With one out, Ji Ho Park’s soft hit to left turned into a double when he beat the throw. He then came around on pinch-hitter Jun Ha Yoo’s single for a 3-1 advantage.
Sin pounded the ball over the wall near the camera bay in left center in the fifth. A U.S. fan threw the ball back on the field. The next hitter, Hwang, belted a long ball to dead center but Butler caught it at the top of the fence.
The Seoul team added three runs in the sixth on an RBI double by Shane Jaemin Kim and Jin Woo Jeon’s two-run single.
Jackie Robinson West lived up to its never-say-die credo — continually winning when a loss would have ended its journey through the tournament — by opening the sixth on singles by Jones and Hondras.
After a terrific diving catch by Dong Wan Sin on Jackson’s hard shot, Darion Radcliff came through with a two-run single and Joshua Houston — the pitching and hitting hero of the U.S. final win a day earlier — also had a single to bring the Chicago fans to their feet.
A passed ball scored Radcliff to make it 8-4, with Houston moving to second, but Choi got Green on a foul-tip third strike and Ed Howard on the force out.
Illinois teams have made 15 trips to South Williamsport, with the Jackie Robinson West league appearing once before, winning two of three games in 1983.