(Story by Marco Stoovelaar)
Águilas completes comeback to win Dominican Final
SAN FRANCISCO DE MACORÍS (Dominican Repulic) -
Águilas Cibaeñas won 7-4 against Gigantes del Cibao on Monday-evening (January 18) in the all-deciding Game 7 to become the Champion of the Liga de Béisbol de Profesional de la República Dominicana (LIDOM).
With that, Águilas completed a strong comeback in the Championship Final.
Gigantes had won three of the first four games, then Águilas won the final three games to capture its 22nd title.
With that, the team now shares the lead for most titles with Tigres del Licey.
Águilas last won the title in the 2017-2018 season.
As Champion, Águilas now will represent the Dominican Republic in the upcoming Serie del Caribe, which opens on January 31 and will be held in Mazatlán (México).
Gigantes won the first two games with scores of respectively 5-1 and 6-2, then Águilas won 6-3 in the third game.
On Friday, Gigantes took a 3-1 lead thanks to a 5-0 shutout.
Águilas then won two games in the weekend with 9-3 and 6-5 to bring the best-of-seven in balance.
In Estadio Julián Javier, the visiting Águilas decided the game with a 5-run rally in the seventh inning.
Águilas was outhit 9-7, but hit three homeruns.
Águilas opened the score in the top of the third inning when Johan Camargo led off with a homerun off of starter Chris Ellis.
The righthanded American had retired the side in the first and second inning.
After giving up the homerun, Ellis retired the next three batters.
With two outs in the fourth, he walked Melky Cabrera, but he was forced out.
Ellis then again retired the side in the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, Gigantes scored twice to take the lead after having left runners behind in scoring position in the previous two at bats.
Abiatal Avelino, José Sirí and Ronald Guzmán opened the inning with three consecutive singles off of Águilas-starter Andy Otero, which led to the tying run.
Hereafter, Luis Castillo was inserted as new pitcher, but he saw Kelvin Gutiérrez hit a sacrifice fly that gave Gigantes a 2-1 lead.
Castillo closed with two strikeouts.
Águilas came alongside in the top of the sixth when Ellis gave up another run when Juan Lagares homered with two outs.
Afterwards, Lagares was named Most Valuable Player of the Championship Final.
Águilas then struck with five runs in the seventh inning off of three relievers to break the 2-2 tie.
Willy Peralta began the inning in relief of Ellis, but he gave up an one-out homerun to Luis Juarez, then walked Francisco Peña.
With Águilas now leading 3-2, Miguel Del Pozo took over the pitching, but he saw the next four batters reach base.
He was greeted with a double by Johan Camargo.
With runners on second and third base, a force play was created by walking Juan Carlos Pérez intentionally.
But hereafter, Jonathan Villar connected for a 2-run double, which lifted the lead to 5-2.
Next batter Ramón Torres brought in the next run with a single and that led to another pitching change.
With runners at the corners, Gabriel Arías took over the pitching.
He got a force play-grounder from Juan Lagares, but that also enabled Villar to score the fifth run in the at bat and lift the lead to 7-2.
In the bottom of the eighth, Gigantes got a run back when Kelvin Gutiërrez led off with a homerun, but the team also stranded another runner in scoring position.
In the bottom of the ninth, Gigantes narrowed the deficit to 7-4.
With one out, Abiatal Avelino tripled and scored on a double by José Sirí off of reliever Neftali Feliz.
Dario Álvarez then took over the pitching and got two grounders that ended the inning and the game.
Manager of Águilas is Félix Fermín, who played ten seasons as short stop in the Major League for Pittsburgh Pirates (1987-1988), Cleveland Indians (1989-1993), Seattle Mariners (1994-1995) and Chicago Cubs (1996).
In the 1989 season, Fermín tied an 87-old record when he had four sacrifice hits in one game.
In 1983-1997, he also played for Águilas himself.
Fermín, who is nicknamed 'El Gato', earlier was the Manager of Águilas in 2000-2008 and then also led the team to five titles.
Fermín then led Gigantes in the next two seasons, before becoming the Manager of Cardenales de Lara in Venezuela in the 2011-2012 season.
In February last year, he returned as Manager of Águilas and led the team to the title for the sixth time.