Hawaii, Curacao take different routes to LLWS championship

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — Hawaii will play Curacao on Sunday in the Little League World Series championship following each team winning its bracket Saturday. Because of the coronavirus, it will be the first title matchup with an international team since 2019, which also featured Curacao.

Here’s a look at the teams.

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Hawaii has yet to lose a game in the expanded, 20-team tournament, entering Sunday with a 5-0 record. None of the games have been close.

It was a 13-0 rout over Tennessee that advanced Hawaii to the game to represent the United States in the tournament final. Hawaii once again took down Tennessee with a 5-1 win to move to Sunday’s championship.

Curacao has had a much longer road to the championship. After beating Nicaragua 2-0 to open the tournament, Curacao fell 9-3 to Panama to drop out of the winners’ side of the international bracket.

Since then, Curacao has had to win five straight to make its way to the championship. The Caribbean team beat Italy, Canada, Nicaragua and Mexico to reach the international final, then defeated unbeaten Taiwan 1-0 to advance to the LLWS championship.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

For Hawaii, Jaron Lancaster has been one of its stars. Jaron tossed three innings of no-hit ball against New York. At the plate, he is hitting over .500 and has launched a couple home runs. Jaron is eligible to pitch in Sunday’s championship.

Cohen Sakamoto has been a force both on the mound and at the plate. Cohen was excellent as the starter on Saturday vs Tennessee, throwing 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball. At the plate, he has been nearly unstoppable and has also lifted two home runs.

Davey-Jay Rijke has been Curacao’s on-field leader. He struck out 15 batters in Curacao’s 7-2 win over Nicaragua. Even though he was hitless Saturday, Davey-Jay had a remarkable catch in the sixth inning against Taiwan in center field to preserve that 1-0 win.

In that same game, Jaydion Louisa came off the bench with a go-ahead single to give Curacao its lone run. Jaydion will be a bat to watch whether it’s in the starting lineup or off the bench.

FUN FACTS:

Curacao has become accustomed to tight games in the tournament so far. After Saturday’s 1-0 win, Curacao now has three one-run wins in the tournament. It has also outscored opponents by just six runs over seven games. Hawaii, meanwhile, has a 45-run edge over its opponents.

Each team has been in the final recently. Hawaii won it all in 2018, while Curacao lost to Louisiana in 2019.

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