South Williamsport, Pa. — In the giddy moments after South Korea won the Little League World Series, outfielder Don Wan Sin 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.
Jae Yeong Hwang drove in two runs and combined with Hae Chan Choi, 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 52/3 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.
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 Jong Wook Park. “We appreciate the people back in Korea. I told the kids that in a speech.”
The game was played in bright sunshine and temperatures in the high 70s 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 at-large fans in the latter innings.
Chicago, the Great Lakes Region champion, 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 between innings that he was sick.
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 Jin Woo Jeon scored Butler. The rally died when Marquis Jackson bounced out sharply to third on the next pitch.
Ji Ho Park doubled and came around on pinch-hitter Jun Ha Yoo’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 inning on an RBI double by Shane Jaemin Kim and Jin Woo Jeon’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.”
Far from falling quiet with the final out, several hundred supporters who gathered for a TV watch party in a South Side Chicago community center gym jumped to their feet, roared and clapped — as if the team had won.
“They showed what heart they have. The city could not be prouder of them,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who attended the party, said of the young players who sought to mount a comeback in the last inning.
Watch parties were held across Chicago to support the team, which is based on the city’s far South Side, including one on State Street outside the iconic Chicago Theatre.
The Jackie Robinson West All Stars, made up of all black players, made their first appearance in 31 years in the LLWS.
Japan takes third
Takuma Takahashi struck out 11 and homered to help Japan silence Las Vegas’ hot bats and win 5-0 in the third-place game.
Takahashi (2-0) never allowed a runner past first base and Las Vegas was held to three hits after scoring 38 runs in four games.