CRIOLLOS DE CAGUAS (PUERTO RICO) 1, AGUILAS DE MEXICALI (MEXICO) 0 - 10 INNINGS
Winning their semifinal against the top-seeded Aguilas del Zulia (Venezuela) was impressive enough for the Criollos, whose ineptitude in the round robin was surpassed only by that of the Tigres del Licey. Could they really defeat the host nation champions and claim their first Caribbean title in three decades? The answer is a resounding "YES!". It took them ten innings, but the Puerto Ricans stopped the Mexican Serie dynasty on their home soil. Their victory was made even more impressive by the fact that they overcame not only the loss of starter Adalberto Flores to injury after six incredible innings, but also their pitching staff being targeted by laser pointers. As a side note, it seems that every major Mexican sporting event has one or two idiots determined to embarrass their fellow fans by using those things. They're like the Mexican version of the American sports fans who chuck batteries at players. There's very few of them, but they reflect poorly on everyone. Anyway, you may have also noticed that this was a second straight pitchers' duel to close out the tournament. The fact that the last two games of the Serie were low-scoring after a Series that looked like the baseball version of arena football shows how important pitching and defense are when the really important games are played (see also 1995 World Series).
Yadiel Rivera (Criollos de Caguas, SS) - 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K, 1 E - Rivera had the only multi-hit performance and only extra-base hit of the final. Both of these facts proved to be extremely important to the outcome of the game as his second hit was a leadoff double to center field in the top of the tenth inning. One sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly later, he had scored the eventual championship-winning run. Rivera was a large part of the team's improved form in the single-elimination stage of the tournament as he batted a combined .500 (4-for-8) with a run, a double, and two RBI in the semifinal and final after going 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts in two round robin games.
Jesmuel Valentin (Criollos de Caguas, 2B) - 1-3, 1 Sac Bunt - While Valentin's sacrifice bunt may not be as glamorous of a statistic as Rivera's game-wining run or the game-winning RBI detailed in the next paragraph, it was just as important as it advanced Rivera to third base, which put him in a position to be driven in by a sacrifice fly from the bat of...
Jonathan Morales (Criollos de Caguas, C) - 1-3, 1 RBI,1 SF, 1 CS - Morales did hit a single to center field in the fifth inning (and reached base via error in the third as well), but it was the ball that Mexicali CF Chris Roberson caught off of Jonathan's bat that was the one that mattered, as it scored Rivera to give Caguas the lead in extra innings.
Adalberto Flores (Criollos de Caguas, SP) - ND, 6 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 HBP - As mentioned before, Flores was forced to leave the game at the start of the seventh inning due to what appeared to be an injury to his pitching hand. While his outing was injury-shortened, it was nonetheless impressive. Not only did Flores go six innings while only allowing one hit and walking one batter, he did so in only 61 pitches. If he had not been forced from the game early, he very easily could have pitched a complete game, maybe even a ten-inning one. If one feels the need to find something negative about this outing, the only one I could think of is the two hit batters, who accounted for half of the batters he allowed on base.
Criollos de Caguas bullpen - Andres Santiago (2 H, 1 BB, 3 K) and Miguel Mejia (win, 1 H) each pitched two shutout innings to keep the game going long enough for the Criollo lineup to manufacture a run and claim the Caribbean crown.
Chris Roberson (Aguilas de Mexicali, CF) - 1-3,1 BB, 1 CS - While Roberson's throw to the plate in the top of the tenth came up short of the plate and allowed the go ahead and eventual winning run to score, Roberson's performance was notable for a couple of positive reasons. First, he was the only Mexicali batter to get on base twice on Tuesday without being hit by a pitch (starting C Xorge Carrillo reached base on both of his plate appearances, once on a base hit, once by being hit by the the pitched ball). Second, his overall numbers in the Serie were spectacular (.409/.480/.545 with a home run, three RBI, and a 2:3 K:BB ratio in six games).
Hector Velazquez (Aguilas de Mexicali, SP) - ND, 6 IP, 5 H, 4 K - While the Aguilas failed to win the championship game, Velazquez was not responsible for the defeat in any way. While he did allow almost a hit an inning, he kept them all from crossing the plate. He also had exceptional control of all of his pitches, as evidenced by his four strikeouts and lack of walks.
So, that's it for the Caribbean Winter Ball Season and thus, the offseason editions of ATF. Before we call it a winter season, here's a list of champions from lower level offseason leagues:
Latin American Series (second-tier leagues' equivalent of Caribbean Series):
Tigres de Chinandega (Nicaragua) - CHAMPION
Panama Metro (Panama)
Leones de Monteria (Colombia)
Chileros de Xalapa (Mexico - Veracruz League)
Mexican Winter League - Diablos Rojos de Mexico
Mexican Academy League - Diablos Rojos de Mexico-Guerreros de Oaxaca co-op
Mexican Peninsular League - Piratas de Escarcega
Merida Winter League (Mexico) - Zorros de Pacabtun
Venezuelan Parallel League - Cardenales de Lara
Desert League (fall independent league in Arizona) - Yuma Maple Leafs
That leaves only one offseason title left to be decided, that of the Australian Baseball League. Their Championship Series is this weekend. The schedule is as follows:
BRISBANE BANDITS AT MELBOURNE ACES
All times US EST. All games on ABLTV.com.
Game 1 - Friday - 3:30 AM
Game 2 - Saturday - 2:30 AM
Game 3 - Saturday - 10:30 PM (IF NECESSARY)
That does it for Around The Farm until the minor league season starts. We'll see you in April. Oh, by the way...
PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT SUNDAY!!!