When the first pitch is thrown between Japan and Curacao in Saturday’s International Championship of the Little League World Series, it’ll be a tale of two teams with vastly different histories in the summer classic.
Japan, a nation with a population of 127 million, is a Little League blue blood. A Japanese team is looking to advance to its seventh LLWS title game in the last 10 years, a feat no other region comes even close to rivaling. Japan’s 11 all-time titles trail only Taiwan’s 17.
MORE: Little League World Series 2019 scores, bracket and schedule
Curacao, on the other hand, a small island nation of 162,000, has just one lone title that came in 2004, and hasn’t played in a Little League final since ’05. Even its journey in the 2019 LLWS is diminished by Japan’s performance.
Japan reached the International Championship in impressive fashion, outscoring opponents 32-2 in three games, including a 20-0 victory over Italy in its opening game. Thanks to a few days rest, every player on its roster is eligible to pitch against Curacao, including Yuto Misaki, who hasn’t allowed a run and has struck out nine batters in five innings of work.
Curacao had to save its season by way of the loser’s bracket. The Caribbean representative originally lost 4-0 to South Korea – a team Japan beat 7-2 – before redeeming itself on Thursday with a 5-3 win in a rematch with South Korea. While Curley Martha may be Curacao’s best player at the plate, Jurdrick Profar, the youngest brother of Athletics infielder Jurickson Profar, may be the most famous of these 11- and 12-year-old players.
The winner advances to Sunday’s title game and will face either Hawaii or Louisiana.
Sporting News is tracking live updates of the International Final between Japan and Curacao. Follow along below.
Little League World Series live score, updates, highlights from Japan vs. Curacao
(All times Eastern)
End 4th: Curacao 3, Japan 2
2:07 p.m.: And Curacao responds in similar quick fashion. Three up, three down.
2:01 p.m.: A great grab by Japan’s center fielder ends a quick half-inning.
End 3rd: Curacao 3, Japan 2
1:55 p.m.: The pitching change paid off, as Japan strands two runners.
1:50 p.m.: Curacao is changing pitchers with one out in the third and Japanese runners on first and third.
1:46 p.m.: A ball struck down the third baseline scores two for Japan. Curacao leads 3-2.
1:37 p.m.: No further damage sustained for Japan. This three-run deficit is the largest its faced this LLWS.
1:33 p.m.: Wow, this was maybe an inch from being a grand slam. A Curacao hit off the wall scores two. Curacao leads 3-0 with runners on second and third and no outs.
1:32 p.m.: Bases are loaded.
1:29 p.m.: Another Japanese error, and Curacao has runners on first and third with no outs.
1:27 p.m.: Profar hits one hard off the wall and has a stand-up double for Curacao.
End 2nd: Curacao 1, Japan 0
1:22 p.m.: Japan is unable to capitalize on its first base runner, as the next three Japanese players are retired. End 2nd: Curacao 1, Japan 0.
1:17 p.m.: Japan gets its first batter of the inning on base, and he advances to second on a groundout.
1:10 p.m.: Three up, three down in the top of the second. Japan will now see if they can get a hit.
1:04 p.m.: Quick work for Curacao as Japan fails to record a hit in the first inning. We move to inning No. 2, Curacao leads 1-0.
1:00 p.m.: Curacao strikes out Japan’s first batter.
12:56 p.m.: After the first three batters reached for Curacao, Japan settled down and retired three straight. Curacao leads 1-0 heading to the bottom of the first.
12:51 p.m.: Curacao gets on the board early thanks to Japan’s first error of the LLWS. A bad throw to third allows Profar to score. The first three Curacao batters have reached.
12:47 p.m.: Profar walks. It’s just the third walk issued by a Japanese pitcher this series.
12:46 p.m.: Japan is the home team, and its first pitch is a ball, away, to Jurdrick Profar.
12:36 p.m.: Looks like a gorgeous day in Williamsport for the International Championship.