Jackie Robinson West’s epic Little League adventure came up one win short of a world title as the Chicago club lost 8-4 to Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday in the Little League World Series championship game at historic Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The Morgan Park-based squad, which won the city’s second LLWS United States title with a 7-5 victory over Las Vegas on Saturday, rallied in the sixth inning but was limited to six hits by a South Korean outfit led by several hard-throwing pitchers.
The city was entralled nonetheless, gathering in front of televisions at home or at public viewing parties.
Brandon Green, who was roughed up against Las Vegas on Aug. 17 in JRW’s only tournament loss, got the start before 28,671 fans at Lamade Stadium and its surrounding hillsides.
After an error by Butler in center field, Jae Yeong Hwang’s RBI double in the top of the first inning gave South Korea a 1-0 lead. An RBI groundout from Hwang in the third increased South Korea’s edge to 2-0.
Hwang started for South Korea and didn’t allow a hit until DJ Butler’s infield single in the third inning. South Korea features a healthy arsenal of arms, and Hwang was immediately replaced by heat-throwing righty Hae Chan Choi. Ed Howard greeted Choi with an infield single, and JRW had runners on first and second with no outs. Pierce Jones walked to fill the bases with one out, and JRW made it 2-1 on a groundout from Trey Hondras.
Gyu Heon Kwon’s single in the fourth brought in a run for a 3-1 South Korea lead, while Dong Wan Sin’s home run to left-center in the fifth made it 4-1.
Darion Radcliff made things interesting in the sixth with a two-run single. Radcliff scored on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 8-4.
South Korea won the country’s third LLWS championship, joining teams from 1984 and 1985.
JRW joined North Roseland, which lost to West Tokyo in the 1967 world championship game, as the only teams from Chicago to reach Little League’s ultimate game.
JRW is the first team from Chicago to reach Williamsport since the same organization did so in 1983.
Sunday was the two-week mark since JRW arrived in Williamsport after rallying to beat New Albany, Ind., in the Great Lakes Regional championship game in Indianapolis. The victory was extra sweet after JRW lost in last year’s regional title tilt.
The team will be honored with a parade Wednesday, beginning at a yet-disclosed place on the South Side and ending in Millennium Park, the mayor’s office said Sunday.
Gov. Pat Quinn released this statement following Sunday’s loss:
“Jackie Robinson West has made a legendary run and finished runner-up, placing at the second best spot for any little league team across the world. … Throughout the tournament they have made Illinois proud and represented the very best our state has to offer.
“When they return to Chicago, they will return as true sportsmen. Everyone now knows the Jackie Robinson West team and will remember when communities across our state came together to support their special season. … Congratulations on a fantastic season, Jackie Robinson West, our very own dream team. You have made Illinois very proud.”
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