For sure, it’s
Caribbean squad takes first
place in Pool D with convincing win over Saudis
For a quartet that has
seen two extra-inning games, a one-run duel, a walk-off home run
and no real blowouts, Pool D drew to somewhat of an anticlimactic
decision Monday when Sorick Liberia flipped the ball to
Christopher Garia to finish off a game-ending double play.
Faced with the
possibility of a three-way tie for first place if the
Transatlantic squad could knock off Curacao, the Caribbean
representatives took no such chance, and instead took advantage of
some early wildness by Saudi Arabia to jump to a 6-1 win before
7,200 at Lamade Stadium.
With the win, Curacao
(2-0) clinches first place in Pool D regardless of the outcome of
tomorrow’s game against Pacific, thanks to its head-to-head win
against second-place Mexico (2-1). Caribbean will now play the
second-place team from Pool C Wednesday (4 p.m., Lamade), while
Mexico takes on Pool C’s winner Thursday (4 p.m.), both in
“I am very happy that
we clinched first place again,” said Curacao coach Michelangelo
Celestina. “We will do our best to win the International
Championship this year.”
Saudi Arabia (1-2)
jumped ahead in the top of the first when Colt Hankamer doubled
and scored on a pair of errors, but the Mexicans countered with
three runs in the bottom without the benefit of a hit against
Saudi starter Josh Amado. After Ryandel Walter drew a leadoff
walk, Liberia reached on an error. After a fielder’s choice, a
wild pitch and an intentional walk to Carlos Pineda loaded the
bases with one out, Guadalupe plated three on two more wild
pitches and Jurickson Profar’s RBI groundout.
“It was a big game
today, and our pitcher – he was a little nervous,” said Saudi
manager Tommy Bumstead. “I walked out and talked to him in the
first inning. He told me, ‘I’m a little jumpy right now.’”
handed the lead, Profar was steady, allowing four hits over his
next five shutout innings while striking out six. After the
right-hander got the save in Curacao’s first win with a clutch
strikeout against Mexico, he had no problem going the distance
himself Monday for the win.
“In the first inning,
I was a little nervous,” Profar said through Celestina. “But I
settled down after that.”
Curacao tacked on an
insurance run in the fourth when Charlton Martis doubled and
scored on Gerson Adamus’s ground ball. The Pabao Little League
added two more in the fifth when Liberia slid in safely on
Profar’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly and Jonathan Schoop scurried
home on a wild pitch.
The team initially
thought Schoop had broken his forearm when he was hit by a pitch
in Curacao’s opener against Mexico, but doctors decided he was OK.
The shortstop said enthusiastically that he felt “good” Monday –
he went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
“He is the shortstop,
and he played here last year,” said translator Carlos Pagan. “He
is the motor of that team.”
Meanwhile, the Saudis
could start the engine, but never got into high gear. Like they
have all week, they saw plenty of opportunities Monday, but failed
to deliver a big hit to pull them back in the game.
An error and Joel
Reimer’s base hit put two on with one out in the third, but Profar
got the next two. The Curacao hurler was even more impressive in
the fifth, when Colt Hankamer and Logan Vimont both reached to
start the inning, but Profar retired three in a row.
seemed like every game we had runners in scoring position, if not
every inning than every other inning. We just didn’t come up with
the big hits when we needed them,” Bumstead said. “That never
seemed to be the problem [at the Transatlantic Regional] in Europe
[when they scored 113 runs in 8 games … For some reason, we lost
some of that punch when we got here.”
The near miss is also
nothing new for an Arabian-American All-Star team that has been to
South Williamsport 10 of the last 11 years. Two years ago, the
Saudis went 2-1, only to miss out on advancing because of the
three-way tiebreaker (run differential + head-to-head). Last year,
they finished again one win shy of the International Semifinal,
something they haven’t reached since 1994.
“The kids came out
today knowing that if they won, they would advance,” Bumstead
said. “We had already figured out the run differential issue with
them, and told them all they had to do was come out and win the
“We’ve been working
with this group of kids here since they were 9 and 10,” he added.
“It’s disappointing, but the kids played their hearts out, and I
couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Curacao’s coaches are
just as pleased – this is the fourth straight year a team from
Willemstad, Curacao has advanced beyond pool play. Each year, the
Caribbean squad fell to Asia in the International Championship,
including these Pabao All-Stars, who fell to Japan last year.
“I have a lot of faith
in this team,” Celestina said. “When one cannot do [something],
the others can do it.”.
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