SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) - Jae Yeong Hwang came through when his team needed him on Wednesday.
Hwang’s go-ahead solo homer in the sixth led South Korea past Japan 4-2 in the Little League World Series.
South Korea advanced to the International Championship game. Japan will face Mexico on Thursday to determine South Korea’s opponent on Saturday.
“For a long time, we have been educated that when we play Japan, it will be a big rivalry,” Hwang said.
Entering the sixth inning, South Korea and Japan were tied at 2-2. Both teams scored twice in the third inning.
Hwang took relief pitcher Suguru Kanamori’s 1-2 pitch deep to right field, breaking the tie and giving South Korea a 3-2 lead.
“I knew right away that I just did it,” Hwang said regarding his go-ahead homer.
Three batters later, Dong Wan Sin took Kanamori’s pitch to center for an RBI double to score Dong Hwan Ahn.
Early on, both teams scored on each other’s ace pitchers.
Japan’s Takuma Takahashi entered the game as one of the top pitchers in the Little League World Series. In his first start, he struck out 14 batters in Japan’s victory over Venezuela.
“The starting pitcher was excellent,” South Korea manager Jong Wook Park said. “He was better than we expected.”
In the second inning, South Korea’s starting pitcher, Hae Chan Choi took Takahashi deep to right to give South Korea a two-run lead.
Japan responded in the bottom half of the inning as Shingo Tomita drove in an RBI on a sacrifice fly. Arata Nishikawa followed, scoring on a wild pitch by Choi to tie the game.