Llws 2017: Lufkin (Tx) Rallies to Beat Greenville (Sc), Will Face Japan in Championship

Texas catcher Chandler Spencer, second from right, begins to celebrate with Mark Requena (15) and Collin Ross (17) after getting the final out of a 6-5 win over North Carolina in the United States Championship baseball game at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa. on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017. (Gene J. Puskar / AP)

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Lufkin, Texas, came from five runs down on Saturday to take the United States bracket at the Little League World Series.

Its task may be even tougher on Sunday, when Lufkin takes on 10-time tournament winner Japan in the championship.

Japan has won four of the last seven Little League World Series, and Tokyo Kitasuna, the club representing Japan this year, has won the championship three times before. Its most recent title came in 2015, when it was led by current manager Junnji Hidaka.

A Texas team has won the Little League World Series twice before, and has appeared in the finals six times previously.

Despite Lufkin’s elation at winning in such dramatic fashion, the team’s manager and players said after they beat Greenville, North Carolina, 6-5 that their hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which was battering Texas.

“I’ve heard that it’s been pretty bad,” manager Bud Maddux said. “Hopefully, (the Little League World Series) takes their mind off it a little bit, that it helps them get through it. We’re feeling for them.”

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT-Bree goes every place with Lufkin, Texas, Little League pitcher Hunter Ditsworth. It is on a chair next to him in the dining hall and on a separate pillow on his bed at night. The 13-year-old does not go anywhere without Bree. Bree is the baseball glove he received for his birthday in June. It has been on…

STORY SO FAR: Japan has cruised through the first four games of the tournament, outscoring opponents 27-1. What’s perhaps most impressive is the team has yet to commit an error. Its four wins have come against Australia, South Korea, Canada and Mexico, in that order.

Lufkin’s only loss in the tournament came against Greenville in extra innings on Wednesday. It was a loss that left a bad taste in the players’ mouths.

The team used the defeat as motivation and routed Fairfield, Connecticut, 14-4 in its next game to force a rematch with Greenville.

“I saw it all over social media that North Carolina was going to take the championship game,” Lufkin’s Colin Ross said. “I just wanted to prove everybody wrong.”

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — As teams got ready for the Little League World Series, managers marveled at the power of the young hitters. Then the tournament began and the pitchers showed what they can do. Connecticut’s Ethan Righter shut down a New Jersey team on opening day that averaged 10.8 runs per game in regional play, the best…

WHO TO WATCH: Keitaro Miyahara (Japan) hit a leadoff home run, which sparked a four-run first inning for Japan in Saturday’s 5-0 win over Mexico in the international championship game. He’s 6 for 12 with a home run and five runs scored in the tournament overall.

Manny Requena’s two-run home run in the sixth inning on Saturday lifted Lufkin to the finals. He has been one of the team’s best hitters in the tournament. He’s batting .556 with a 1.000 slugging percentage in Lufkin’s five games.

WHERE TO WATCH: The game is at 3 p.m. EDT and airing on ABC.

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT-“This is the major leagues of life,” said Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. That was his comment Saturday after coaching third base during the annual Challenger Division exhibition game during the Little League World Series. Mr. October, so nicknamed for his World Series hitting with the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees, talked with the players and had…

DID YOU KNOW?: Maddux has not allowed his team to go swimming during the Little League World Series, and he said none of his players brought bathing suits with them on the trip.

Once the tournament is over, however, swimming is fair game.

“I told them if we win that game tomorrow,” Maddux said. “I’ll be the first one in the pool.”

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