Puerto Rico Storm Back from Early Deficit to Beat Curacao 8-2 Winning Championship

Sunday, July 15, 2007 — Puerto Rico claimed the 2007 Latin American Big League baseball championship by blowing by Curacao 8-2 in Saturday’s final.
Curacao scored the first two runs in the game and, behind a good starting pitching effort from Jonathan Balentina, looked set to pull off their second huge upset of the tournament. Curacao got to the semifinals as the lowest seeded team with a 1-4 record. They then went on to upset the top seeded and defending champions Panama 2-0 on Friday to get to the finals against Puerto Rico. Puerto, on the other hand, easily dispatched Venezuela 10-0 on their way to the finals.
Everyone in the stands, especially the large group of fans who traveled from Puerto Rico to support their team, believed that the finals would be a walk in the park for the highly talented Puerto Rican team. That is, everyone, except the boys from Curacao. They came in to the game loaded with confidence after knocking off defending champions Panama, and after scoring the first two runs of the game their confidence soared even higher. The Puerto Rican fans, armed with blow horns and a sweet sounding percussion band were partying, but not the way they did the night before because their team did not score in the first four innings and entered the fifth trailing 2-0. The party, however, really started in the top of the fifth when their team scored its first run and eventually tied the game at 2-2.
Puerto Rican manager Jaime Munoz said he was not worried, despite his team being down 2-0 early. “You know I have a lot of confidence in my team. We had a meeting before the game and I told them that the best team does not always win; sometimes it is the team with the most desire who wins. Tonight Curacao had more desire than we did for the first five innings. But in the last few innings we showed our courage and we showed the desire to beat Curacao.” Mr. Munoz was then asked what was it he said to his team to get them back in the game. “I just told them to maintain the game, I told them that we must start to do the little things like moving the runner, hitting the ball to right field, just maintain the game and in the end we will bat. We maintained the game, played defense and in the end we did bat.”
The game started quietly enough for Puerto Rico as they failed to score in the top of the first inning and would fail to get on the board until the fifth. Curacao, on the other hand, stunned the crowed by drawing first blood in the bottom of the inning and some fans could be heard saying that another upset was in the making. They scored two runs on a solo home run off the bat of leadoff hitter Argenis Daal and an RBI ground out by Angelo Bito. That, however, would be all the scoring Curacao would do in the game.
The score would stay that way until the top of the fifth when Puerto Rico began their championship run. Edwin Sanchez had an RBI triple that prompted the Curacao manager to pull starter Balentina. It was a move that many in the stands questioned because aside from the triple, he was still looking pretty strong on the mound. He was relieved by the hard throwing Marickson Gregorius who threw a wild pitch to score Sanchez from third with the tying run.
Puerto Rico then took the lead for good in the top of the sixth on an RBI double off the bat of Jose Collazo and the party was now really on in the stands, with their fans dancing and chanting to the beat of the percussion band.
They really sealed the deal in the top of the seventh when they erupted for five runs on RBI singles by Jorge Sanabria and Alexis Marquez, an RBI double by David Ortiz, a wild pitch and an RBI ground out by Gean Carlos Velez. Curacao went relatively quiet in the bottom of the seventh to lose by a final score of 8-2.
Juan Burgos pitched five strong innings to pick up the win for Puerto Rico while Gregorius got the loss for Curacao. Top hitters for Puerto Rico were, Ortiz, 2 for 3 with an RBI, and Sanabria and Marquez were both 1 for 4 with one RBI. For Curacao, Daal was 2 for 3 with a home run and one RBI, Sherintly Gomez 2 for 3, and Bito was 1 for 3 with an RBI.
Two Puerto Rican players also took home the tournaments top honors. Ortiz won the batting title and Samuel Rodriguez was the best pitcher. Ortiz also tied with six others for the home run title with one.
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