Jackie Robinson West

Jackie Robinson West's Marquis Jackson (left) celebrates with Brandon Green during the game against Philadelphia at the Little League World Series on Thursday. (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune / August 21, 2014)

You've got Bears-Eagles, Cubs-Phillies, Blackhawks-Flyers, Bulls-76ers.

Add Jackie Robinson West vs. Taney Little League to that list of great Chicago-Philadelphia matchups.

ESPN billed Thursday's Little League World Series pitching matchup as the "powerhouse righty" (JRW's Marquis Jackson) vs. the "crafty lefty" (Erik Lipson of Philadelphia).

A little over the top? Probably. Yet mixed in with all the hype is a genuine excitement generated by these youngsters, especially in Chicago. Regardless of how the game turned out, everyone who watches this tournament to see how much fun these kids are having is a winner. Period.

At stake was a berth in Saturday's U.S. championship game against Las Vegas. Here are snapshots from each inning Thursday that made us smile.

FIRST INNING

Forgive JRW coach Darold Butler for the mixed message. He could be heard on the broadcast telling one of his base runners "Go home!" before changing his mind to "Get back!" Clearly he's got the adrenaline running.

On the field: Philadelphia's Jack Rice drives in a pair with a two-out single, and JRW's Joshua Houston returns the favor to tie it. By the end of the inning, JRW grabs the lead.

Score: JRW 4, Philadelphia 2

 

SECOND INNING

One of Jackson's pitches sails over everyone at home plate to the backstop. No harm, no foul. But better check that wall for dents!

On the field: Jackson pitches around a walk to hold Philadelphia scoreless in the top half of the inning. Later, an overthrow leads to two more JRW runs.

Score: JRW 6, Philadelphia 2

 

THIRD INNING

Have you seen these kids’ bats? They’re all neon colors. Aaaaand all of the sudden we need a sugar fix. Weird.

On the field: Good defense by both teams leads to a scoreless inning.

Score: JRW 6, Philadelphia 2

 

FOURTH INNING

ESPN interviewed Christopher Green, father of JRW catcher Brandon Green, who told the story of how he made his son block balls behind the plate for two straight weeks.

“’Well Dad, when am I gonna catch?’” Christopher Green recalled. “Well, when you go to college.”

On the field: Zion Spearman rips a single up the middle to score two for Philadelphia. Jackie Robinson West manages a hit but is kept off the scoreboard.

Score: JRW 6, Philadelphia 4

 

FIFTH INNING

Cut to a clip of a chef offering the Philly team deep dish pizza.

“Ewww!” the kids respond in unison. Same goes for when the chef tries to give the Chicago kids cheese steaks.

All is well when the menus are switched.

On the field: Kai Cummings smacks a long home run for Philadelphia, and JRW’s Trey Hondras shows good sportsmanship by giving him a high-five on his way around the bases.

Score: JRW 6, Philadelphia 5

 

SIXTH INNING

Ah, the final handshake. You feel bad for the team that lost, but at least they have great memories to take with them.

On the field: Philadelphia threatened with a couple of base runners, but Cameron Bufford induced a fly out to right to end and send Jackie Robinson West to the U.S. championship game!

Final score: JRW 6, Philadelphia 5

 

NEXT UP: U.S. championship game

Jackie Robinson West vs. Las Vegas

2:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC

If Jackie Robinson West wins, it advances to the international championship vs. South Korea or Japan.

 

 

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