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Updated: February 3, 2018
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Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
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Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2018 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos by Henk Seppen)

Cuba and Puerto Rico open Serie del Caribe with win

ZAPOPAN, Jalisco (México) - Alazanes de Granma, the Cuban champion of the Serie Nacional de Béisbol, opened the 60th edition of the annual Serie del Caribe on Friday-afternoon (February 2) with a 6-4 victory against Caribes de Anzoátegui, the champion of the Liga Venezolana de Béisbol Profesional.

In the evening, Criollos de Caguas, the champion of the Puerto Rican Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, won 7-4 against Tomateros de Culiacán, the champion of the Liga Mexicana del Pacifico.

This year, the Serie del Caribe is played at Estadio Panamericano in the city of Zapopan, which is part of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area, located in the Mexican state of Jalisco. The stadium is the home of Charros de Jalisco of the Mexican Pacific League, which has a Triple-A Minor League-designation.

In March last year, Pool D of the World Baseball Classic was played at this site. In that Pool, Italy, México, Puerto Rico and Venezuela played. Dutch umpire Winfried Berkvens was one of the umpires who worked the games in this Pool.

Before the start of the evening game between host México and Puerto Rico, former American President Bill Clinton was scheduled to throw the ceremonial first pitch. Clinton was a special guest of the event's main sponsor , but after addressing the crowd, he invited boxer Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez to throw the first ball. Alvarez is from Guadalajara and a is superstar and Clinton wanted a local hero to throw the first pitch.

(February 2)

Related Articles:
Águilas dethrones Tigres and captures Dominican title. (January 31)
Granma repeats as Cuban champs with small win in Game 7. (January 28)

Cuba vs. Venezuela
In the top of the first inning, Cuban starter Lazaro Blanco walked lead-off hitter Rafael Ortega, but then struckout the next three hitters! In the bottom of the first inning, the first three Cuban hitters reached on a basehit off of starter Daryl Thompson, resulting in a quick 2-0 lead! Roel Santos led off with a single, then moved to third base on an error from centerfielder Rafael Ortega, who had just stranded on first base in the top half of the at bat. Santos scored the first run when next hitter Yordan Manduley also singled, then Yurisbei Gracial followed with a double to make it a 2-0 score.

...Ricardo Hernandez pitching for Spain...
...during the 2012 European...
...Championship in the Netherlands...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
Venezuela left a runner behind in scoring position in the top of the third inning, but then scored its first run in the third at bat. Luis Sardinas and Rafael Ortega opened with singles to put runners at the corners. Hereafter, Sardinas scored on a double play-grounder from Niuman Romero.

In the top of the fourth inning, the Venezuelan squad came alongside when Luis Jimenez homered with one out. Cuba appeared to re-take the lead in its fourth when Jorge Yhonson and Guillermo Aviles led off with singles to put runners on first and third base. But a double play followed which first eliminated Yhonson at the plate.

Cuba then did re-take the lead in the fifth. Raul Gonzalez led off with a single, moved on a sacrifice bunt, then a single by Yordan Manduley and, after a pitching change, scored on a sacrifice fly by Yurisbel Gracial.

With two outs in the seventh inning, Cuba took more distance. New Venezuelan pitcher Felipe Paulino got two quick outs, but then walked Roel Santos and Yordan Manduley. Hereafter, Paulino gave up a runscoring single to Yurisbel Gracial. Ricardo Hernandez Sanchez then was brought in as new pitcher for Venezuela. A few years ago, the lefthander pitched in the Dutch big league for Hoofddorp Pioniers. Hernandez also pitched for the National Team of Spain during European Championships. Hernandez was greeted with a runscoring single from Alexander Ayala, which lifted the lead to 5-2.

Venezuela got a run back in the top of the eighth when René Reyes led off with a double and scored on a following single by Balbino Fuenmayor. But Cuba immediately reacted with a run of its own in the bottom of the eighth. New pitcher Victor Capellan gave up a lead-off double to Frederich Cepeda, whose pinch-runner Yulian Milan scored with two outs when Raul Gonzalez reached on an error.

Venezuela got an opportunity to come back in the top of the ninth. With two outs and a runner on second base, Niuman Romero walked and the bases then got loaded when René Reyes singled. A pitching change followed and Raidel Martinez took over, but committed a balk, which enabled Sardinas to score. With runners now on second and third base, the base got loaded again when Martinez walked Balbino Fuenmayor. But hereafter, the game ended when Martinez closed with a strikeout.

México vs. Puerto Rico
In the evening, both Puerto Rico and México failed to hold onto a minimal lead. Puerto Rico then broke a 4-4 tie by scoring three runs in the eighth inning en route to its first victory.

Puerto Rico took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning. With one out, the bases got loaded when David Vidal, Ruben Gotay and Dayron Varona all singled. The first run was then scored when starting pitcher Edgar Gonzalez walked next hitter Jonathan Morales. The second run was added when Rey Navarro followed with a single, but the inning then ended with a double play.

...Closer Miguel Mejia participated with Puerto Rico in the...
...2012 Haarlem Baseball Week in Haarlem (Netherlands)...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
With two outs in the bottom of the second inning, host México gets one run back when Ronnier Mustelier singled and scored on a single by Gabriel Gutierrez.

Puerto Rico immediately answered with a run in the third. Jesmuel Valentin led off with a single, moved on a wild pitch, then scored on a double by Anthony García. Two grounders fotlowed, then the inning when García was eliminated trying to steal the plate. Puerto Rico challenged the call, but that was upheld.

México also scored again in its third at bat. Sebastian Elizalde led off with a single, moved to third base on an one-out single by Jesus Castillo and scored on a sacrifice fly by Japhet Amador.

After Puerto Rico was retired in order in the fourth inning, México scored twice to take a 4-3 lead. Ronnier Mustelier and Issmael Salas were both hit by a pitch, which was very costly. The two moved on a sacrifice bunt by Gabriel Gutierrez and with two outs, they both scored on a single by Sebastian Elizalde.

Another free pass was costly for México, as it produced the tying run for Puerto Rico in the fifth. Lead-off hitter Irving Falu walked, moved on a wild pitch and a grounder, then scored on a 2-out single from Anthony García.

After two scoreless innings, Puerto Rico re-took the lead in the top of the eighth inning off of new pitcher Casey Coleman. He gave up a lead-off double to Anthony García, who then scored the go-ahead run with one out on a ground-rule double by David Vidal. Ruben Gotay followed with a single, which led to a pitching change. Nick Struck took over, but he enabled Vidal to score on a wild pitch, then gave up a triple to Dayron Varona that lifted the lead to 7-4.

México was unable to come back in its remaining two at bats. In the eighth, the team got runners on second and third base with two outs off of reliever Robby Rowland, but he closed with a strikeout. In the ninth, closer Miguel Mejia gave up an one-out single, but that runner was forced out.

Puerto Rico collected 15 basehits, including three by Anthony García, who had two doubles, scored once and batted in two runs.

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