Superstitious Newman dominates from the mound
Curacao pitcher Dennis Newman slept four hours prior to his start in Thursday’s International semifinal against Valencia, Venezuela. He ate a lot of food, polished his shoes and put on two pairs of underwear. His ritual complete, Newman was ready to pitch.
“(Newman) has some superstitious things that he likes to do before he pitches,” Curacao manager Mark Van Zanten said of his ace. “These things relax him.”
Newman did appear calm on the mound. He struck out eight in his six innings of work, while allowing only a single base hit in Curacao’s 3-0 win over Venezuela Thursday afternoon at Lamade Stadium.
“I felt great,” Newman said through an interpreter. “My curveball was not working as well as it usually does, and I did not have the velocity that I usually do, but I was dominating the other team, so I felt great.”
Newman got all of the help he needed from his defense.
“I am used to this type of solid defense,” Newman said. “Shortstop (Hario Polonius) is the best defensive player we have, and he played good today.”
Venezuela ace Eduardo Mendez, who was coming off a 12-strikeout performance last Saturday, struggled with his control early. Curacao capitalized on two consecutive bases-loaded walks issued by Mendez in the bottom of the first inning.
“Getting runs early is important because it puts pressure on the other team,” Van Zanten said. “And when Dennis is pitching, two runs is pretty much impossible to come back on.”
The Caribbean champs tacked on one more run in the third inning. Rudney Balentien doubled to left, and later scored on an error.
With the victory, Curacao advances to Saturday’s International Championship for the second straight year and will take on Sendi, Japan. Curacao’s only defeat thus far in the tournament came at the hands of Japan. The Asia region champs defeated Curacao, 5-0, in Pool D’s finale Tuesday morning.
“We are very proud to get back to where we got last year,” Van Zanten said. “We are going to play our game. We think we have a good chance to beat them.”
Catcher Balentien agrees with his coach.
“This is what we wanted all along,” Balentien said through an interpreter. “We did not hit so well against Japan in the first game. We wanted to play them again to show them that we are the best team.”
The showdown is set to take place at Saturday at 3 p.m. at Lamade Stadium.