The shutout was the fourth of the tournament for Team USA, the three-time defending World Cup champions, and leaves the U.S. as the only unbeaten team remaining in Thunder Bay with a record of 7-0. The loss was Korea's first of the competition.
Team USA has one game remaining in the Super Round as it is scheduled to take on Australia at 9 a.m. ET on Saturday. The gold-medal game will be played at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday at Port Arthur Stadium.
Hankins was dominant from the start on Friday, striking out the side in the first inning and never looking back. He would accomplish that feat a total of four times on the morning, finishing with 14 punchouts over six superb innings in which he yielded just two singles, a walk, and a hit batter.
Ryan Weathers (Loretto, Tenn.) came in out of the bullpen and picked up right where Hankins left off, fanning four batters of his own in 2.2 scoreless frames before JT Ginn (Brandon, Miss.) entered the game to strike out the final batter and end the contest.
Combined, the three pitchers did not allow a baserunner past second base, marking the third time in the tournament the U.S. has done so, and struck out 19 batters.
Great pitching and stellar defense by both clubs kept the scoreboard blank for most of the game until an error and a passed ball by Korea opened the door for the U.S. to push a run across in the eighth.
The U.S. would tack on an insurance run in the top of the ninth with Brice Turang (Corona, Calif.) following a Nolan Gorman (Glendale, Ariz.) double with a base hit back up the middle to make it a 2-0 game.
Korea would threaten in the game's final frame, putting two on with two out but Ginn needed just four pitches to strike out the only batter he faced to seal the victory, earn the save, and send the U.S. to Sunday's gold-medal game.
Although he would be saddled with the tough-luck loss, Korea starting pitcher Been Gwak was outstanding on the mound as well. He struck out nine batters of his own while allowing just two runs - only one earned - on five hits over 8.1 innings.
Team USA is the three-time defending World Cup champion and is looking to become the second country to win four-straight gold medals in the tournament.
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USA Baseball 18U National Team Manager Andy Stankiewicz
(On earning a spot in the gold-medal game)
"That is what you play for and why we are here. That was the goal, obviously, to get to the gold-medal game. I'm proud of our guys for the way they have gone about it. That is back-to-back battles, which is great. This is what you need to have. In order to be a championship team, you have to be able to rise up in those moments. I'm very proud of how we have responded, both last night and tonight."
(On Ethan Hankins)
"He just attacks the zone. Sometimes he is a little emotional, he is young and wears his emotions on his sleeve. I think as he matures, he will be able to settle down in those big moments, but in terms of just his arm and his stuff, it is just fantastic. He did a great job of just pounding that zone. Sometimes he got squeezed a little bit but he responded well and kept making pitches when he had to."
(On Korea starting pitcher Been Gwak)
"Their guy pitched a great game, there is just no getting around it. He mixed his pitches well and he threw a nice changeup to our lefties who had a hard time seeing it. He hid it well and it came out clean like a fastball so we were out in front a lot. Then once in a while he would drop a breaking ball in on a lefty, which is just good pitching. It's a higher division of pitching to be able to do that. That is what we expected. We knew coming in that this was their guy and he pitched a great game. It was a really great ball game from a purist standpoint."
(On the team's resiliency)
"This morning we had 6:30 breakfast, 7:00 bus, and we were out taking BP when it was 37 degrees outside. They didn't care. They just said, 'Let's go, we have a job to do.' From that standpoint, that is maturity to be able to rise above the elements and focus on the task at hand over everything else."
Outfielder Mike Siani
(On earning a spot in the gold-medal game)
"It has been a battle. The competition has been great but we came together today for a tough game. Good pitching, but we battled, and the pitching was even better on our side. It is a great feeling. Kind of what we expected but we had to fight to get here and, obviously, we are excited."
"The pitcher we saw, even though we haven't seen a lot of right-handed pitchers this tournament, he was good. A lot of off-speed and he was spotting up. He was tough to hit. As the game went on we worked better at-bats, worked deeper counts, and the hits came. We had eight of them which is enough, and the two runs we kind of scrapped across. Just putting the ball in play was the most important part. We didn't have as many strikeouts today which definitely helped us out."
(On playing in the gold-medal game on Sunday)
"That is the best feeling ever. We are ready to go. Obviously we have one tomorrow against Australia, and that is important too, but everybody is pumped for Sunday. The four returning guys on this team, we have to let everybody know how it is going to be, talk to the guys, and get everybody together. We are really looking forward to it."
Starting Pitcher Ethan Hankins
"Korea is a really good team. We were both undefeated coming into the game so I knew they would be very disciplined hitters and that is exactly what they showed out there. I expected them to go after some high fastballs or, at least, fastballs around the zone but they were so patient. They waited for their pitch every single time until it got to two strikes and then I was able to work a little bit."
(On what it will be like to wear the USA jersey while playing for a gold medal)
"It is awesome but, at the same time, all part of the plan we have going. It is going to be a feeling that I can't really describe. It is already a blessing to be able to go out in a game like this and wear the USA across your chest. To have the opportunity to do it in a gold-medal game is not something I can even put into words."
(On the team's resiliency to come back after an emotional game last night)
"We are all here for the same goal. We all want the gold medal just as bad as everyone else. We knew that this was a big morning to get us there so we came out ready to play."