Profar, so good
Pitcher fires one-hitter to give Curacao first International
Championship in four tries
Pineda is Curacao’s No. 1 pitcher.
But those who saw
Jurickson Profar’s one-hit shutout in the International
Championship against Mexico might beg to differ.
“In the [Caribbean]
regionals, [Profar] was the first pitcher, before Carlos,” said
Curacao coach Michelangelo Celestina through translator Carlos
Pagan. “He threw today as he threw in Curacao.”
In Curacao, he must
have been overpowering, because Saturday he only allowed Oscar
Garza’s fifth-inning single to left and struck out 12 to lead the
Caribbean to a 4-0 win before 18,380 at Lamade Stadium. The Pabao
Little League from Willemstad, Curacao will now play for the World
Championship Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at Lamade against the U.S.
champion (either Texas or California).
“We never came so
far,” Celestina said. “It would be a great honor for us to win the
But even winning
Saturday was a great honor for a tiny island that has been to this
level all three years since the Caribbean was represented in South
Williamsport, but has fallen each year to the team from Asia.
Curacao (5-0) took care of Chinese Taipei in the International
semifinals this year, and had no problem advancing to the final
game over Mexico.
And that was largely
because of Profar. The 5-foot-5-inch righty was far from perfect,
walking five and putting at least two men on base in the first,
fourth and fifth during his 107-pitch (65-strike) complete game.
He even loaded the
bases with two outs in the fourth on a pair of walks and a
fielder’s choice that did not produce an out. But as was the case
much of the day, the fastball and the strikeout – this one the
third of the inning – got him out of it.
“In the fourth and
fifth innings, I felt I had to get out by striking out the
batters,” said Profar through Celestina and Pagan. “The manager
[Vernon Isabella] asked if I could strike out the batter [in the
fourth], and I did.”
Profar was able to do
it because he got his fastball back, after he didn’t have total
control of it in his first start of the tournament. Saturday, he
struck out six batters in a row at one point to blow through the
second and third innings, en route to his second win. He has now
tossed 12 1/3 innings in South Williamsport, allowing just six
hits and no earned runs.
“I knew that he was
going to pitch very well,” Celestina said. “He didn’t have his
fastball in [his first start of the World Series].”
thing is, Curacao didn’t have their game Saturday, but it didn’t
matter. The Caribbean squad, whose offense thrives on bunting and
speed, tried to lay down a pair of bunts in the first and failed
against Mexican hurler Ismael Garcia.
“We couldn’t bunt, so
we won by hitting the ball,” Celestina said.
And he meant hitting
the ball. After Garcia retired the first two batters of the second
inning on two pitches, Dimitri Eugenia ripped a 0-1 pitch the
other way into Curacao’s bullpen area beyond the right-field
For Eugenia, who had
been 0-5 in the tournament with five strikeouts, the eventual
game-winning home run had to feel especially good.
strikeouts, the pitcher will not throw that hard,” Eugenia said
through Celestina and Pagan. “He thinks I’m going to strike out
But it was Curacao who
struck again, this time with the longball in the fourth. Jonathan
Schoop led off with a single, and Pineda then pulled an inside
fastball hard over the left-field fence, flipped his bat aside and
took a few walking strides toward first before breaking into his
“The first time at
bat, I knew I was going to hit a home run,” Pineda said through
Celestina and Pagan. “I am a good fastball hitter.”
slugger was an absolute bane to Mexico (3-2) this week. Curacao
was the only team to beat the Mexicans, and they did it in pool
play 3-2 behind Pineda’s 5 2/3 innings on the hill and three-run
homer at the plate.
“We practice a lot
with the fastball on the outside corner,” Celestina said. “The
Mexicans throw a lot of fastball on the outside corner.”
Pineda’s shot was on
an inside pitch, but no matter where it is this week, he’s hitting
it – he’s now 7-for-10 overall, with three homers and seven RBIs.
But his most important task Sunday will not be with his bat but
his arm, as he will get the start against a vaunted U.S. champion
no matter who wins Saturday night.
And he’s still
thinking about hitting the ball.
“We are going to hit
the fastball,” he said.
But the shortstop
Schoop, who capped the scoring Saturday with an RBI double in the
fifth, knows the truth.
“If we get good
pitching, we will win,” Schoop said through the translators.
Then, you can forget
Profar or Pineda debate. The whole Curacao team would be No. 1.
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