SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — Texas will play California on Saturday for a bid to represent the United States in the Little League World Series title game on Sunday.
Here’s a look at both teams prior to their semifinal matchup.
HOW THEY GOT THERE
Texas is the lone undefeated team from the U.S. bracket, but its games have been tight.
It took the team from Needville, Texas, nine innings to defeat Washington 1-0 on Wednesday — its third game decided by two runs or fewer.
Texas also defeated Pennsylvania 2-1 in the opening round, beat North Dakota 6-2 and won 3-1 against its U.S. championship opponent, California, before knocking off Washington from the winner’s bracket.
Despite falling to Texas in its second game, California has won its last three games.
The team from El Segundo, California, beat Ohio 4-3 in its first game and bounced back from its loss to Texas with a 9-3 victory over Rhode Island. California then defeated Tennessee 5-3 on Wednesday and Washington 2-1 on Thursday.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Texas has won games by close margins thanks in part to good pitching. On Saturday, Needville is likely to start its ace, DJ Jablonski, who is 2-0 with 15 strikeouts and just one walk in two starts this tournament. He also homered against California.
For California, 6-foot-1 Louis Lappe has stolen the spotlight.
Lappe homered for California’s only run in its loss to Texas, struck out nine in victory over Rhode Island and went 3 for 3 with a two-run homer against Tennessee.
Needville Little League was two games from a LLWS berth in 2021 before a player tested positive COVID-19 which, under protocols at that time, meant the team could not continue its run into the regionals.
California crowns its home-run hitters with an army helmet, but since the team hit no homers on Thursday, starting pitcher Declan McRoberts donned the helmet postgame.
Seth Engle is a student in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State.
Seth Engle, The Associated Press