Sergio Rivera leads Latin America champs to first-place finish in
Pool C with 6-2 win
By Mark Rogoff
Panama had already
advanced to the semifinal round before its battle with Taiwan,
Chinese Taipei for Pool C supremacy.
Did Panama throw in
the towel and take it easy knowing that they'd advance, despite
first place being on the line?
"We were relaxed, but
we'd rather get in first place and avoid Curacao," said Panama
manager Carlos Mosquera through interpreter Carlos Pagan.
He wish was granted.
Panama used a fine-run
second inning and a superb pitching performance from Sergio Rivera
as the Latin America champs downed Taiwan 6-2 in front of 5,400 at
With the win, Panama
finished round-robin play with a 3-0 record, securing first place
in Pool C and a matchup with Mexico in Thursday's international
semifinal. Taiwan fell to 2-1 and will take on Curacao Wednesday
afternoon in the other semifinal.
"The first two wins,
no one took notice because of the opponents," Mosquera said. "But
now we beat Taiwan. It was a very important win for us."
Panama sent 10 to the
plate in its five-run second inning. Rivera started things off
with a solo homer to left and Mario Gonzalez' two-RBI double
closed it out.
Gonzalez, who popped
up in foul territory in his first at-bat, added an opposite-field
solo long ball in the fifth.
"My coach always tells
me to be patient," he said through Pagan. "I was a little more
patient in the second at-bat and then for the home run."
Rivera earned the
complete-game win, his lone run allowed coming from a Chao
Wei-Sheng solo homer in the fourth. Rivera allowed three hits in
all, and struck out seven while walking four.
"I was a little
nervous," Rivera said of pitching against a tradition-rich Taiwan
team. "But my coach settled me down. They have a very good team."
Bethancourt also praised the Taiwan club.
"They have good
defense and they run the bases well," he said through Pagan. "It
was important that we beat a team (from a land) with (21) world
Panama is now gunning
for one of its own.
The stage is set for
the four best international teams to duke it out over the next two
days. Manager Mosquera is poised and ready for his boys to take on
"Every team here is a
champion, but I think my team is going to win," he said. "I will
always go with my team."
for box scores