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Updated: February 6, 2021
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Copyright © 1997-2021
Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2021 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photo by Henk Seppen)

Dominican and Puerto Rican teams to meet in Serie del Caribe Final

MAZATLÁN (México) - Águilas Cibaeñas and Criollos de Caguas, the champions of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, will face each other on Saturday in the Final of the 63rd edition of the Serie del Caribe. On Friday (February 5), the two teams won their Semi-Final to advance to the Final.

Both teams recorded a small victory, both winning with one run difference and both coming from behind. Águilas nipped Federales de Chiriquí (Panama) 4-3 in the afternoon. The Dominicans, who were unbeaten, decided the game in the ninth inning, coming from behind. And in the evening, Criollos won 2-1 against Tomateros de Culiacán (México).

In their final games in the round robin on Thursday, the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans also recorded a come-from-behind win. Águilas then won 3-2 against Caimanes de Barranquilla (Colombia) and Criollos won 9-8 vs. Federales. The Dominicans then also scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning.

(February 5)

Águilas Cibaeñas (Dominican Republic) vs. Federales de Chiriquí (Panama)

Águilas Cibaeñas stayed unbeaten in the preliminary round, winning all five games it played to become the favorite for the title. But in the Semi-Final, the Dominicans were almost left empty-handed, as they trailed 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. The team then scored twice to win and advance to the Final. Águilas initially led 2-0, but Federales came alongside in the seventh, then took the lead in the ninth.

Águilas-starter Carlos Martínez had a strong outing, but ran into problems in the sixth. The 29-year old righthander struckout eight batters and gave up only one basehit in 5 2/3 inning. He struckout three batters in the second inning After leaving a runner behind on second base in the third inning, Federales got another runner on second base in the fourth when David Rodríguez doubled with one out. This was the lone basehit Martínez gave up and Rodríguez also stranded on second base.

However, in the top of the sixth inning Martínez got the bases loaded without giving up a basehit. He walked lead-off hitter Rodrigo Orozco, who then advanced to third base on a throwing error by Martínez during a pick-off. With two outs, Martínez also walked Allen Córdoba and David Rodríguez. With the bases loaded, Luis Castillo took over the pitching and got a force play-grounder that ended the at bat.

Águilas was unable to get into scoring position in its first five innings off of starter Manuel Campos. The 31-year old righthander got some baserunners, but none of them got beyond first base. But in the bottom of the sixth, Águilas scored two runs. With one out, Juan Lagares and Robinson Canó both singled, which gave the team runners on first and third base. Both scored when Ronald Guzmán doubled. Guzmán tried to stretch his hit into a triple, but was eliminated at third base (9-6-5).

The lead was shortlived, as Federales came alongside in the top of the seventh. Rodrigo Vigil led off with a single, but was forced out on a grounder by Belarmino Campos. A following force play-grounder by Jhonny Santos then resulted in no outs and two runners. Rodrigo Orozco followed with a single down the rightfield-line, which brought in Campos. Santos also was able to score as a fielding error in rightfield followed. And that made it a 2-2 score. Orozco stranded on second base.

Águilas was retired in order in the bottom of the seventh, then left a runner behind on first base in the eighth.

Federales, which was retired in order in the top of the eighth, took a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth. With one out, new pitcher Fernando Abad gave up a double to Belarmino Campos, then an infield-hit to Jhonny Santos. Hereafter, Rodrigo Orozco singled, which moved the runners. Jorge Bishop, who was inserted as pinch-runner for Campos, was able to score when centerfielder Juan Lagares made a fielding error.

And so, Federales led 3-2 when the bottom of the ninth inning began. With that, Águilas was three outs away from elimination for the Final. But the Dominicans struck moments later, scoring two runs with two outs to win!

With one out, Melky Cabrera singled, then his pinch-runner Yefri Pérez stole second base. With two outs, Johan Camargo walked intentionally, but the bases got loaded when Junior Lake followed with a single. Next batter Carlos Paulino then drilled the ball into centerfield for a walk-off, 2-run single!

Criollos de Caguas (Puerto Rico) vs. Tomateros de Culiácan (México)

...Rey Fuentes with Puerto Rico...
...vs. Netherlands in Semi-Final...
...of 2017 World Baseball Classic...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
In the second Semi-Final, Criollos trailed 1-0 halfway the fourth inning, then answered with two runs. That were all runs scored in this game, but for the Puerto Ricans it was enough to reach the Final. Like the Dominicans, the Puerto Rican champion also was favorite to advance to the Final, but also had its hands full in the Semi-Final.

Four Puerto Rican pitchers gave up only four basehits. Criollos recorded six basehits off of five pitchers, including a homerun by Rey Fuentes, which accounted for both Puerto Rican runs.

Criollos got a chance to open the score in the bottom of the first inning off of starter Manny Barrreda. The 32-year old righthander gave up a lead-off single to Jarren Duran, then Vimael Machin walked with two outs. The two runners advanced on a passed ball, but stranded on second and third base.

In its first three at bats off of 21-year old starter Luis Medina, Tomateros was retired in order twice and left a runner behind on first base once. But in the top of the fourth inning, the Mexicans opened the score. Ramiro Peña led off with a single and stole second base. That was challenged, but the call was upheld. Peña then advanced to third base on a grounder by Sebastián Elizalde Ramos. Moments later, he scored on a single by Joey Meneses.

Criollos answered with two runs in its fourth at bat. With one out, Jonathan Morales singled and scored when next batter Rey Fuentes hit the ball over the fence in rightfield for a 2-run homerun.

The 29-year old Fuentes played in the Major League for three clubs, San Diego Padres (2013), Kansas City Royals (2016) and Arizona Diamondbacks (2017). In 2017, the outfielder participated with Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

Criollos got a chance to take some more distance in the bottom of the sixth when it got the bases loaded. Lead-off hitter Vimael Machin walked, then Jonathan Morales was hit by a pitch. Arturo López then took over the pitching from starter Manny Barreda. He saw Machin's pinch-runner Jancarlos Cintrón and Morales advance on a sacrifice bunt by Rey Fuentes, who also reached base himself. With that, the bases were now loaded with no outs. But the three runners were left behind, as a flyout, strikeout and flyout followed. In the seventh, Criollos left runners behind on first and second base.

Tomateros got only one more runner in scoring position. That was in the sixth, when a runner stranded on second base. In the top of the ninth, closer Rayan González, who had entered the game in the eighth, retired the side to seal the win!

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