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Hawaii defeats South Korea 3-0 to win Little League title

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SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — It only took one pitch for Mana Lau Kong to deliver Hawaii its first Little League World Series title in a decade.

Against a South Korea team that hadn’t surrendered a home run in the tournament, Kong drove the first pitch his team saw over the center field fence. As he rounded the bases and headed home, his teammates poured out of the dugout in a pack led by pitcher Ka’olu Holt and formed a huddle around home plate.

“It was great,” Holt said, “because we all knew that pitcher was tough to hit.”

Holt took it from there, throwing a two-hitter to lead Hawaii to a 3-0 victory in the Little League World Series championship, the first shutout in a title game since 2002. It was Holt’s first-ever complete game.

The team from Honolulu allowed just three runs in the entire tournament, shut out four of its five opponents and struck out 53 batters in 34 innings.

“Someone asked me, what’s the strength of the team, and I honestly have to say, it’s that they play as a team,” Hawaii manager Gerald Oda said. “Ka’olu pitching, or Aukai (Kea) pitching, Mana hitting a home run, it’s everybody just doing the best that they can do. Once they bought in and once they accepted their roles, it makes my job a lot easier.”

In the bottom of the second inning, Hawaii had the bases loaded with no outs, but failed to score. So Oda took a more aggressive approach on the basepaths with two runners in scoring position in the third.

Pinch-runner Zachary Won scored Hawaii’s second run on a wild pitch from starter Kim Yeong-hyeon. As catcher Kim Gi-jeong chased the ball, Oda sent Taylin Oana all the way home from second to give Hawaii its third run.

In the stands, Hawaii’s fans, waving tea leaves for luck, started to mix their signature “Hon-o-lu-lu!” chants with “U-S-A!”

The victory marks the first time a Hawaiian team has won the Little League World Series since 2008. It is now one of seven U.S. states with at least three LLWS titles. All of Hawaii’s championships have come in the past 13 years.

Seoul, South Korea, has played in the three of the last six LLWS title games, but won only once – in 2014. It lost in 2016 to Maine-Endwell, New York.

“It was equally the same thing, from 2016 to 2018,” South Korea manager Su Ji-hee, who was also a member of the coaching staff of the 2016 team, said through a translator. “After the game, the kids were crying, they feel sorry for themselves.”

At the conclusion of a six-pitch final inning, Hawaii’s players tossed their gloves and hats as high as they could, and sprinted to the mound to form another celebratory huddle.

“It felt really great because barely any Hawaii teams get to be in this moment and feel what it feels like meeting other people from around the world, to playing baseball against them too,” Kong said.

After finally achieving what his team set out to accomplish at the beginning of the summer, Oda can’t wait to return home to his family.

As for the kids? They want to see their families, too, but they have other plans.

“I want to go to the beach,” Holt said.

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez are engaged

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LOS ANGELES — Jennifer Lopez said yes to Alex Rodriguez’s proposal, and with the rock he presented, who could say no?

The couple posted an Instagram photo of their hands with a massive engagement ring on Lopez’s ring finger. The former Yankees shortstop captioned his photo with “she said yes” and a heart emoji.

The couple has been dating since early 2017 and later that year landed on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine with their celebrity couple nickname, J-Rod.

In January, Rodriguez told The Associated Press that he and Lopez had similar backgrounds and her latest film “Second Act” reflected the ties that drew them together.

“It really resembles a lot of the arc that Jennifer and I lived in our life: Both born in New York, both come from immigrant parents, both have two children, both Latino Americano – her from Puerto Rico, me from Dominican Republic. We’ve been through our ups and downs, but here we are in our 40s and trying to live the best lives possible and, at the same time, give back and pay it forward,” Rodriguez said.

It will be Lopez’s fourth marriage and Rodriguez’s second. Each has two children from previous marriages.

Astros remain World Series betting favorite after All-Star break

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The latest World Series futures reflect that the American League is a shallow circuit, which might also help protect the value on the National League’s top contenders to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy.

The defending World Series champion Houston Astros are the +400 favorite in 2018 World Series betting lines as the second half of the Major League Baseball season resumes, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Their AL counterparts, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, are next on the board at +450, with the Los Angeles Dodgers (+650) and Chicago Cubs (+700) having the top odds out of the NL.

No team has repeated as World Series champion since the 1998-2000 Yankees won three in a row. However, laying chalk on Houston is a pragmatic play. The Astros are in the top five in MLB in runs scored, like five of the last 10 champions were in the regular season. Thanks in large part to Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, they also went into the all-star break first in starting pitching ERA. Four of the last 10 champions have finished the regular season sixth or higher in this category.

Picking between the Red Sox and Yankees, one of whose season will come down a one-game wild-card series in October, depends on what a bettor believes counts for more in October: starting pitching or the bullpen. The Red Sox have performed better on the front end, while the Yankees are stingier in the late innings.

For what it might be worth, the National League champion has won the last six even-year World Series. The senior circuit is also more competitive – the AL has three teams on pace for 100 losses to match its big three on pace for 100 wins – and that could bear fruit in the post-season.

The Dodgers, through picking up all-star shortstop Manny Machado as a rental player earlier this week, have signaled they are all in on winning their first World Series title in 30 years. The Dodgers’ World Series odds could also be a reflection on the slow start they had this season; despite injuries that included a brief loss of No. 1 starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, they still have a top-10 offense and pitching staff.

The Cubs are also in the top 10 in runs scored and fewest runs allowed. They are also a less risky pick than the Dodgers at this stage, given that their only competition in their division appears to be the Milwaukee Brewers (+2000), while the Dodgers have the the Arizona Diamondbacks (+2000), San Francisco Giants (+2500) and Colorado Rockies (+3300) within striking distance in the NL West race.

The speculative play is the Cleveland Indians (+1200), who go into the second half with the largest divisional lead in MLB. The big question with Cleveland is how much its trade for all-star left-handed reliever Brad Hand improves a bullpen that was among MLB’s worst during the first half. Cleveland is third in run scored and has the second-most efficient starting pitching corps, led by Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber.

It’s not unheard-of for a team whose bullpen was mediocre over the run of 162 games to win after putting it together for three post-season series.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.