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Hawaii to face South Korea in LLWS title game

MLB.com @_dadler and @dohyoungpark

The 2018 Little League World Series all comes down to this: the Honolulu Little League from Honolulu, Hawaii, against the South Seoul Little League from Seoul, South Korea, in the winner-take-all championship game today at 3 p.m. ET at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pa.

Playing as a beacon of hope and cheer for those back in the Aloha State in the aftermath of Hurricane Lane passing through the Hawaiian Islands, the Little Leaguers from Honolulu capped off an undefeated run through the United States bracket with a win over Peachtree City American Little League, representing Georgia.

The 2018 Little League World Series all comes down to this: the Honolulu Little League from Honolulu, Hawaii, against the South Seoul Little League from Seoul, South Korea, in the winner-take-all championship game today at 3 p.m. ET at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pa.

Playing as a beacon of hope and cheer for those back in the Aloha State in the aftermath of Hurricane Lane passing through the Hawaiian Islands, the Little Leaguers from Honolulu capped off an undefeated run through the United States bracket with a win over Peachtree City American Little League, representing Georgia.

Tweet from @GovHawaii: Congratulations! #Proud #AlohaStrong https://t.co/rhTUh8ZUmM

Hawaii will represent the United States in the championship for the first time since 2010, when the Waipio Little League from Waipahu, Hawaii, finished as runners-up to Japan, with a 4-1 loss in the World Series championship.

The international semifinal between South Korea and Japan saw a battle of two perennial powerhouses from the Little League World Series -- in fact, the Little League World Series championship will feature a team from one of the two nations for the ninth straight year.

South Korea last won it all in 2014, when the Seoul Little League defeated the Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas in the championship game. They also played in the title game in '16, when they defeated Panama in the international semifinal before they were bested by New York, 2-1, in the final.

Since that title, Little League opportunities have expanded in South Korea, and three different teams have advanced to the Little League World Series from the nation -- East Seoul Little League in 2016, West Seoul Little League in '17 and, now, South Seoul Little League in '18.

Prior to the championship game, Japan and Georgia will face off in the third-place game at 10 a.m. ET at Lamade Stadium.

International championship
In the first semifinal game Saturday, South Korea bested Japan, 2-1, in the international championship game, preventing Japan from a chance to defend its 2017 Little League World Series title.

South Korea was the home team for the matchup as the last undefeated team on the international side. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, with the big hit a home run to left by Ji Hyung Choi.

Tweet from @LittleLeague: South Korea breaks open the scoring! #LLWS pic.twitter.com/dFfxW0MmU6

Japan pulled to within a run in the fifth thanks to a two-out bloop RBI double down the right-field line by Masaumi Ikeuchi. But Yeong Hyeon Kim struck out Japan's Yuya Ito to strand runners on second and third and preserve South Korea's lead.

The game ended on a fantastic play by Kim. In the sixth, Japan got the tying run aboard with one out on Shisei Fujimoto's single to right-center. The next batter, Masato Igarashi, ripped a line drive up the middle. Kim snared the comebacker and threw to first to double off pinch-runner Takumi Nakata and send South Korea to the LLWS championship game.

United States championship
Later in the afternoon, Hawaii beat Georgia, 3-0, in the U.S. championship game behind a 15-strikeout complete-game performance from pitcher Aukai Kea.

"Today's been crazy. Being here today, we find out that the hurricane back home has died down to a tropical storm, so that's great, so then I just played with my heart out," Kea said in a postgame interview with ESPN. "Playing for them, always."

The game went scoreless into the bottom of the fourth inning, but Hawaii broke through on a two-out, pinch-hit RBI single by John De La Cruz. They added on two more runs in the fifth -- both with two outs, after No. 3 hitter Sean Yamaguchi was intentionally walked with the bases empty. Bruce Boucher tripled in Yamaguchi, then scored himself on Jace Souza's single.

Tweet from @LittleLeague: West goes up 1-0! #LLWS pic.twitter.com/JIsORET61y

Hawaii's pitching staff has shut out its opponent in three of the four games it has played in Williamsport, including a pair of shutouts against Georgia in the first and final rounds, and a 10-0 win over the touted Mid-Island Little League from Staten Island, N.Y., before the U.S. championship.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.