SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pennsylvania (AP) ― In the giddy moments after South Korea won the Little League World Series, outfielder Sin Don-wan realized how he wanted to celebrate.
“I want to go to the Blue House ― the White House of Korea ― and meet the president,” Sin said, breaking up his teammates.
Just maybe Sin, who scored twice and hit a solo homer, will indeed get his wish to meet Park Geun-hye.
He’s famous back in his homeland ― along with all of his teammates.
Hwang Jae-yeong drove in two runs and combined with Choi Hae-chan, who weathered a late Chicago rally, to lead the Asia-Pacific Region champions to an 8-4 win in Sunday’s LLWS championship game.
Hwang, who was removed because he wasn’t feeling well, gave up one hit in two-plus innings while striking out four. He also drove in his team’s first two runs as they built an 8-1 lead before Jackie Robinson West made it close.
“I’m very joyful. It’s a wonderful feeling,” Hwang said. “I don’t know why I’m even here; I didn’t play very good today.”
Choi, who had a homer and scored twice, pitched the last four innings for South Korea, which won its third title after back-to-back championships in 1984 and ’85.
But even he got a little nervous at the end after Chicago collected four of its six hits and scored three times.
“I knew I could allow some runs,” he said. “After I got the second out, I thought I could do it. But after I gave up the three runs I was (worried).”
International teams have won the last three and four of the last five titles.
Brandon Green went 5 2-3 innings for Chicago, which had survived four straight knockout games before the final.
After the final out, a force play, the Seoul team’s bench emptied and the players dumped cups of water on their teammates near the mound. The players took a victory lap, waving and laughing.
South Korea’s Choi Hae-chan (third from left) celebrates with teammates after hitting a two-run home run off Chicago’s Brandon Green in the sixth inning of the Little League World Series championship baseball game in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Sunday. Korea won 8-4. (AP-Yonhap)
The win meant a lot to the people of South Korea, who had to watch it or get updates in the middle of the night.
“We know the time difference and that a lot of people were cheering for us,” said manager Park Jong-wook. “We appreciate the people back in Korea. I told the kids that in a speech.”
The game was played in bright sunshine and a temperature of around 70 degrees Celsius before a crowd of 28,671 at Lamade Stadium.
South Korean fans, brightly dressed in flowing satin robes of yellow and electric blue, danced with large fans in the latter innings.
Chicago, the Great Lakes Region champions, came back from 3-0 and 5-4 deficits to beat favored West champ Las Vegas Mountain Ridge 7-5 in the U.S. title game on Saturday. Earlier, South Korea, the Asia-Pacific Region winner, rolled over Japan, 12-3.
But they couldn’t come back against the powerful South Koreans, who asserted themselves early.
Leadoff hitter Choi drilled the very first pitch over the wall in right, but a few feet foul. He then flied out deep to right.
Sin followed by smacking a screaming liner to center that slipped out of the glove of DJ Butler for a two-base error.
Hwang’s double brought in the first run.
With one out in the third, Choi walked and Sin singled sharply up the middle. After a double steal, Choi came home on Hwang’s ground-out to third.
Hwang set down the first six Chicago hitters, four on strikeouts.
Butler broke up Hwang’s no-hitter with a spinning cue shot to short that he beat out leading off the third. That was all for Hwang after he had mentioned to his coaches that he was sick between innings.
He traded places with first baseman Choi, who was greeted by shortstop Ed Howard’s bouncer to the mound that was scored a single, prompting the first prolonged chants of “U-S-A!” for the day.
Choi then fanned Cameron Bufford before leadoff hitter Pierce Jones ― who had three homers in the LLWS opener but was just 1 for 12 since ― walked to load the bases with one out.
That brought up Trey Hondras, who had a homer and three RBIs in the U.S. final, and his high hopper to second on a nice grab by Jeon Jin-woo scored Butler. The rally died when Marquis Jackson bounced out sharply to third on the next pitch.
Park Ji-ho doubled and came around on pinch-hitter Yoo Jun-ha’s single in the fourth.
After Sin pounded the ball over the wall near the camera bay in left center in the fifth, a U.S. fan threw the ball back on the field.
Then the Seoul team added three runs in the sixth on an RBI double by Shane Jaemin Kim and Jeon Jin-woo’s two-run single.
“(We) felt like we had a chance even when we were down 8-1,” Chicago manager Darold Butler said. “(South Korea) had a pretty good game. They were the better team today.”