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Updated: January 26, 2018
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Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2018 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos by Henk Seppen)

Jair Jurrjens and Tigres trail in Dominican Final

SANTO DOMINGO DE GUZMÁN / SANTIAGO DE LOS CABALLEROS (Dominican Republic) - Águilas Cibaeñas is leading 2-1 in the best-of-seven Final of the Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana against reigning champion Tigres del Licey, which is the team of Netherlands Team-pitcher Jair Jurrjens. Águilas opened the series on Tuesday (January 23) with an 8-1 score, then won Game 2 on Wednesday with an 8-4 score. On Thursday, Licey forced at least a fifth game by winning the third game of the Finale with a 4-3 score at home in ten innings. Initially, Licey led 3-0 in that game, but Águilas came alongside in the ninth at bat. Game 4 will be played on Friday.

Tigres del Licey is the oldest and most successful team in the professional Dominican league. The team was founded in 1907 and has captured 24 Championship-titles, including 22 in the current league. The team, which is nicknamed 'El Glorioso', won its first titles in 1924 and 1929. After the founding of the professional league, Licey was its first champion in 1951.

The opener was played on Tuesday, at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal in Santo Domingo. The home-playing Tigres del Licey opened the score with one run in the bottom of the first inning. The game then remained scoreless until the top of the seventh when Águilas came alongside. In the next two at bats, Águilas added seven more runs to win 8-1.

...Jair Jurrjens started for Tigres in the opener...
...On the photo, he pitches for the Netherlands...
...during the 2017 World Baseball Classic...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
Curaçao-born Jair Jurrjens started for Licey and had a fine outing. The righthander struckout four hitters, walked three and gave up four hits, throwing 5 1/3 scoreless innings.

In the first inning, with two outs, Yamaico Navarro and Juan Francisco singled for Licey. Navarro then scored the first run when Yermin Mercedes also singled.

Águilas got into scoring position for the first time in the top of the first inning off of Jurrjens. With one out, he gave up a single to Daniel Santana, who stole second base. Jurrjens closed with a strikeout.

In the second inning, Águilas got close to the tying run. With one out, Johan Camargo walked and moved to third base on a single by Juan Carlos Perez. A pop-fly and force out ended the at bat.

Jurrjens got another baserunner in the third inning, but he was caught stealing. The Netherlands Team-pitcher gave up one-out singles in the next two innings, but again avoided giving up runs. In the top of the sixth inning, Jurrjens began with a strikeout, then walked Felix Perez. Hereafter, he was relieved by Andrés Avila, who retired the next two hitters.

In the meantime, Tigres got no chances to take more distance. Águilas then came alongside in the top of the seventh inning when Juan Carlos Perez led off with a walk, stole second base and scored on an one-out single by Christian Bethancourt.

In the eighth, Águilas took a 4-1 lead. With one out, Felix Perez singled and Edwin Espinal walked, then Johan Camargo hit a 3-run homerun. Four more runs were added in the ninth. The first run was scored when Felix Perez was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, then next hitter Edwin Espinal cleared the bases with a 3-run double.

On Wednesday, at Estadio Cibao in Santiago de Los Caballeros, Águilas took a 2-0 lead in the Series by winning 8-4. Again, Licey opened the score, this time with two runs in the top of the first inning. Julio Borbón led off with a double and the bases got loaded when next hitter Erick Aybar walked and Yamaico Navarro singled. The runs were then scored when Cuban starting pitcher Yunesky Maya walked Juan Francisco and Yermin Mercedes followed with a sacrifice fly.

Águilas got one run back in the bottom of the fourth inning off of Lisalverto Bonilla when Daniel Santana homered with two outs.

Tigres took more distance in the top of the fifth inning by scoring twice. With one out and two runners on base, Juan Francisco produced a runscoring single and a sacrifice fly by Yermin Mercedes made it a 4-1 score.

From the sixth inning on, the game turned the way of Águilas. The home team then scored two runs on a homerun by Junior Lake to narrow the deficit to 4-3. In the next at bat, Águilas again scored twice on a homerun to take a 5-4 lead. Edwin Espinal led off with a single, then Johan Camargo homered.

...Erick Aybar celebrates reaching 2nd base... the Final of the 2013 World Baseball Classic...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
In the bottom of the eighth, Águilas increased the lead to 8-4, thanks to a 2-run double by Felix Perez and a sacrifice fly by Edwin Espinal.

On Thursday, back home in its own stadium, Licey took the lead for the third time in three games and almost again ended up empty-handed. Licey took a 3-0 lead with two outs in the fourth inning. With one out, Juan Francisco was hit by a pitch. He could have been forced out on a following grounder by Yermin Mercedes, but a fielding error followed. Moments later, Mercedes was forced out on a grounder by Anderson Hernandez in a close play at second base. A challenge followed, but the call was upheld and so, there were two outs. But that could have been three. Hereafter, the remaining two baserunners scored when Sebastian Valle connected for a triple. Valle then scored the next run on a following single by Emilio Bonifácio to put Tigres ahead, 3-0.

Tigres was held scoreless in the next at bats, while Águilas came back in the late innings. After seven scoreless innings, Águilas scored twice in the top of the eighth inning off of new pitcher Dustin Antolin. He was greeted with singles from Christian Bethancourt and Luis Valenzuela. After the next hitter lined out to leftfield, a run was scored on a single by Junior Lake. That led to a pitching change. Jairo Asencio took over and faced Danny Santana, who lined out to second baseman Erick Aybar, who is the short stop of San Diego Padres in the Major League. The latter then tried to double up Lake at first base, but first baseman Juan Francisco missed the ball and that enabled Valenzuela to score. Lake advanced to third base, but stranded there, as Asencio closed with a strikeout.

With one out in the top of the ninth inning, Águilas came alongside. Johan Camargo then walked and his pinch-runner Yefri Perez moved to third base on a single by Juan Perez. With runners at the corners, Perez scored the tying run on a wild pitch from Asencio. As Licey was unable to score in the bottom of the ninth, the game went into extra innings.

In the top of the 10th, Águilas was retired in order, then Tigres decided the game in its tenth at bat, hitting four consecutive singles! Tigres got the bases loaded when Engel Beltre, Erick Aybar and Yamaico Navarro all singled. Hereafter, Chris Roberson also singled, popping the ball over the short stop for a walk-off single, giving Tigres a 4-3 win!

(January 23-25)

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