With the entire city of Chicago watching proudly, Jackie Robinson West Little League continued its dream run on Saturday, defeating Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas 7-5 in a thrilling United States championship game in Williamsport, Pa.
In doing so, Jackie Robinson avenged its only loss in the LLWS, a 12-3 defeat at the hands of the previously undefeated Las Vegas team on Aug. 17, and will now advance to Sunday's World Championship game against South Korea.
With ace Joshua Houston on the hill, Jackie Robinson fell behind 3-0 in the first inning, but quickly rallied for three of its own in the bottom half. Trey Hondras belted a two-run home run that immediately made it clear it wasn't going down without a fight. He followed with an RBI single in the second inning, giving Chicago its first lead of the afternoon.
Showing poise beyond their years, both pitchers settled in for the middle innings. Still, it felt like a matter of time before the kids from Vegas got in one more big swing. That came in the fifth inning when Brad Stone smacked a two-run homer off Houston, giving Las Vegas the lead at 5-4. However, Houston and his teammates would prove resilient one more time, rallying for three again in their at-bat. Houston tied it with a line drive single to right field, and then Brandon Green gave them the lead for good with an RBI ground out.
Appropriately enough, Jackie Robinson West made sure the game ended in dramatic style, turning a gorgeous 1-6-3 double play as Vegas threatened to tie it again.
It was a memorable game that in no way was defined by one play or one mistake. Both teams played hard and both played extremely well, and though it may not feel like it now for the Las Vegas kids, there's no reason to hang their heads.
Both teams did the game of baseball proud on Saturday afternoon, and believe us, people were was watching and smiling. Especially in Chicago.
The kids from Jackie Robinson West deserve to celebrate. Not only are they the first all African-American to play in the United States championship game, they'll also become the first to play in the World finals, and become the first team from Illinois to win the entire tournament.
Awaiting them on Sunday will be the undefeated team from South Korea, who advanced to the world championship game with a 12-3 win over Japan. It won't be an easy task, but these kids are proving nothing is impossible.
First pitch is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon.
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