SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — After his Chicago team had come back to beat Las Vegas 7-5 in the U.S. final on Saturday at the Little League World Series, manager Darold Butler admitted he wasn’t sure what came next.
“I don’t even know what time tomorrow’s game is,” he said. “Anybody know?”
For the record, his Jackie Robinson West team meets South Korea in the World Series championship game on Sunday at 3 p.m.
He and his players were so focused on their game with the West Region champions from Las Vegas that they didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to Saturday’s earlier game.
South Korea walloped Japan 12-3 to take the International title, setting up the matchup at Lamade Stadium.
“To be honest, (I saw) bits and pieces, but I can’t tell you much about our next opponent,” Butler said.
He said it was more important how his own team plays rather than dealing with strategy and a game plan.
“I’m going to do my research, to put the team in the best position to win this game,” he said. “But at the same time, I love our style of baseball. We’re going to run, we’re going to be aggressive. There’s going to be times I’m going to burn runners — sometimes I’m a little bit too aggressive.
“But I prefer to put the pressure on 11-, 12- and 13-year-old kids. I figure if we put enough pressure on them, some of their kids are going to make mistakes.”
South Korea didn’t make many in the International final.
Sang Hoon Han and Jun Ha Yoo homered in South Korea’s dominating victory, while Hae Chan Choi added three RBIs.
Including this year, South Korea has reached Williamsport just three times in the tournament’s 68-year history. The two previous appearances — 1984 and 1985 — ended in championships.
Manager Jong Wook Park said despite that history, there isn’t any heightened sense of pressure.
“People back home just cheer for us,” Park said. “We’d like to win as much as possible, but just to be here is winning already.”
Chicago had no sooner beaten Las Vegas than fans started chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
Clearly, the American team will have a partisan crowd in the championship game.
But playing in front of a pro-U.S. crowd won’t faze the South Koreans.
“I don’t really care about the crowd,” Yoo said.
Much like the Americans, the Asia-Pacific Region champions are more worried about how they play than what the other team might do.
“We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing so far,” pitcher Dong Hyeok Kim said.