A controversial call to send the runner home with two outs in the final inning left the V.I. team on the short end of a 4-2 score against Aruba in Saturday night’s championship of the Caribbean Regional Little League Tournament.
After watching a fantastic finish at Friday night’s semi finals game, the crowd was out in full force at Emile Griffith Ballpark for Saturday’s championship. Everybody waved hometown memorabilia, including LaVelle Campbell, who got the crowd chanting for the team as he ran back and forth through the bleachers swinging a gigantic V.I. flag.
Both pitchers started strong, with the game scoreless through the first inning. But the V.I. started the top of the second with a double to right field from Jahmiah Simmonds. Ramirez Carriere followed with a hit to third, and Aruba shortstop Gillian Wernet’s throw to first caused the first-baseman’s foot to leave the bag, allowing runners on first and third with one out. On the next pitch, Carriere stole second, leaving runners on second and third with one out. A wild pitch allowed the Simmonds to score, putting the V.I. team up 1-0.
Carriere advanced to third and another wild pitch sent him in, putting the V.I. up 2-0. Aruba responded in the bottom of the second with Jaidwick Tromp driving a base hit between shortstop and third baseman. One batter later, a ball hit back to the pitcher by Artoire Herrere was then fumbled and both runners were safe. The next batter, Endry Brito, hit a ball that went past the V.I.’s left fielder, pushing across two runs and tieing the score.
The score remained knotted until the bottom of the fourth, when Aruba’s Dayson Croes hit a ball down the left field line that a diving V.I. left fielder could not catch, and ended up with a triple. The next batter bunted back to V.I. pitcher Eleury Rosario, who went straight to first, allowing the runner from third to score. Aruba now had a 3-2 lead.
Wernet started the botton of the fifth with a walk. The next batter, Anthony Lacle, hit the ball back to the V.I.’s pitcher, who then threw the ball into center field, leaving runners on second and third with no outs. The V.I. team made a pitching change to Jahshimo Harley, who threw a wild pitch. The catcher got to the ball, but decided to make the play himself and the runner scored from third, making the score now 4-2.
The V.I. team managed to get out of the inning without allowing any more runs, but once again had an uphill battle going into their last at bat.
The V.I.’s first two batters went down quickly in the sixth, leaving it up to Dennis Senelis. He fouled off pitch after pitch on his way to earning a walk. The crowd seemed to pick up its enthusiasm, hoping for a repeat of the night before when the V.I. rallied in the bottom of the sixth to win against Curacao.
With two outs and a man on first, Keshawn Gumbs hit a shot to left center, which one-bounced against the fence. As Senelis approached third, the coach waved him home. He was picked out at the plate, giving Aruba the Caribbean title and sending them to Williamsport, Va., to represent the region in the Little League World Series.
"We feel really, really great being the champions," said Aruba’s coach Luigi Bergen. "We’re going to celebrate for a few days, and then when we go back, we’re going to get our two feet back on the ground and prepare ourselves mentally … we’re going to train real hard.
"But this is also the opportunity for me to say to St. Thomas, you guys did a hell of a job. You held us there, 4-2, with all the tension. You played well, you held up, so congratulations to you, too."