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Updated: February 1, 2021
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Copyright © 1997-2021
Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2021 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar)

Serie del Caribe underway in México

MAZATLÁN (México) - On Sunday (January 31), six teams played their first games of the 63rd edition of the annual Serie del Caribe, which is held this year in the Mexican city of Mazatlán. In the past days, five of the teams qualified for participation by winning the Championship Series of the professional leagues in their respective countries.

Águilas Cibaeñas (Dominican Republic), Criollos de Caguas (Puerto Rico), Caimanes de Barranquilla (Colombia), Caribes de Anzoátegui (Venezuela) and Tomateros de Culiacán (México) all won the title to qualify.

The sixth team in the tournament represents Panama. Due to coronavirus-measures, the entire season of the Winter League in Panama was cancelled. With that, there is no champion to represent the Béisbol Profesional de Panama (Probeis). Last year, the title was won for the first time by Astronautas de Chiriquí, which was to as Astronautas de Los Santos this season as one of the four teams in the league. For the Serie del Caribe, Federales de Chiriquí, which was the loser of the Championship Final of the 2019-2020 season, was selected to represent Panama. The team will be compiled from players representing the four teams of the league.

All teams will face each other in the tournament through Thursday. On Friday, the top-four will play in the Semi-Finals. The two winners then will meet in the Final on Saturday. Last year, Dominican champion Toros del Este won the Serie del Caribe, which then was hosted in San Juan (Puerto Rico).

On Sunday, the first three games were played in Estadio Teodoro Mariscal, which is the home of Venados de Mazatlán. Spectators are allowed to attend the games, but due to the corona-measures, only 40 percent of the stadium will be used for visitors. The capacity of the stadium in Mazatlán is 16.000. Also, spectators must wear face coverings and observe social distances.

(January 31)

Caribes de Anzoátegui (Venezuela) vs. Federales de Chiriquí (Panama)

In the opening game, Panama recorded a come-from-behind 6-3 win against Venezuela. The team trailed 3-2 after five innings, but then rallied for four runs in the top of the sixth inning. The Panamanian team is managed by former Cuban National Team-player Alfonso Urquiola. Caribes also has a Cuban Manager, Mike Álvarez.

Federales collected 14 basehits (all players had at least one), including three by Allen Córdoba Herlis Rodríguez accounted for three of the 12 bashits recorded by Caribes.

Venezuela opened the score in the bottom of the first inning on a single by Danry Vásquez. Panama came alongside in the second, thanks to a double by Héctor Gómez.

The Venezuelan squad re-took the lead in the bottom of the third when Herlis Rodríguez led off with a homerun. Again, Panama tied the score, this time on a 2-out single by Jonathan Araúz in the fourth. Last year, Araúz made his debut in the Major League, playing for Boston Red Sox.

Venezuela took the lead for the third time in the fifth when Jesús Sucre homered with one out. Sucre played in the Major League in 2013-2019 for three teams.

But for the third time, Panama erased the deficit and decided the game with a 4-run rally in the top of the sixth. Former Major Leaguer Héctor Gómez led off with a double off of David Martínez, who then was replaced by Mayckol Guaipe. He gave up an RBI-single to Carlos Quiroz, which brought in the tying run. Quiroz later was eliminated at third base trying to advance on a grounder by Rodrigo Vigil. With two outs, Vigil scored on a single by Jonathan Araúz, who then scored himself on a following double by Jesús López. Andrés E. Pérez then took over the pitching, but the scoring wasn't over yet. First, López moved to third base on a single by Allen Córdoba, who in 2017 played in the Majors for San Diego Padres. Moments later, López scored when next batter Willy García also singled to lift the lead to 6-3. García also played in the Majors in the 2017 season, but he played for Chicago White Sox.

Águilas Cibaeñas (Dominican Republic) vs. Criollos de Caguas (Puerto Rico)

In the second game on Sunday, the Dominican champion won 5-1 against the Puerto Rican champion. The Dominicans, who decided the game early, collected seven basehits and saw centerfielder Juan Lagares bat in all five runs. The Puerto Rican team was limited to four by four pitchers. Dominican starting and winning pitcher Carlos Martínez struckout seven batters in 5 2/3 inning.

Criollos opened the score in the top of the first inning. American Jarren Duran led off with a single, stole second base with one out, advanced on a grounder and scored on a single by José Miranda. But this was to be the lone run for Criollos.

In the bottom of the third inning, Águilas turned the game its way. With one out, Jonathan Villar walked and Major League-veteran Melky Cabrera singled. They scored when next batter Juan Lagares followed with a homerun.

In the fourth, Lagares also batted in the next two runs. With two outs, Villar singled, but appeared to be eliminated on what would be a force play-grounder by Cabrera. However, Villar was awarded second base on interference by the second baseman. Moments later, both scored on a single by Lagares to make it a 5-1 score. Lagares plays in the Major League for New York Mets since 2013.

Caimanes de Barranquilla (Colombia) vs. Tomateros de Culiacán (México)

The first day closed with a convincing 10-2 win by the host-team from México against the champion of Colombia. Tomateros collected ten basehits. Caimanes got seven and led 2-1 after four innings, but the Mexicans then rallied for six runs in the fifth at bat.

Both teams scored once in the first inning. México on a single by Jesús Castillo Montaño, Colombia on a single by Dilson Herrera. In the fourth inning, Caimanes took a 2-1 lead, thanks to a sacrifice fly by Carlos Martínez.

But in the top of the fifth inning, the game turned around when Tomateros scored six runs. José Alejandro Cardona led off with a single, then José Guadelupe Chávez was hit by a pitch. After Cardona was caught stealing at third base, Sebastián Elizalde Ramos walked. Luis De Ávila then took over the pitching from American starter David Holmberg, but gave up a 2-run double to Joey Meneses, which gave the Mexicans a 3-2 lead. Next, the bases got loaded when De Ávila walked Jesús Castillo and Isaac Paredes. Another pitching change followed. Julio Vivas was inserted, but he saw two runners score, as he walked next batters Víctor Mendoza and Alexis Wilson Delgado. Vivas followed with a strikeout, but then was relieved by Ronald Ramírez, who was greeted with a 2-run single by José Cardona.

In the top of the ninth inning, Tomateros added three more runs on a 3-run homerun by Jesús 'Jesse' Castillo.

The day before the tournament started, Cardona and Paredes played for Naranjeros de Hermosillo, which then lost the seventh game of the Championship Final against Tomateros. They were added to the roster of Tomateros for the Serie del Caribe.

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