End the drought! The Indians win the winter ball championship in Carolina
The new “Mako rascals” arrived in Carolina on Wednesday to complete a comeback in the seventh and decisive game of the final of the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (LBPRC).
In a fifth consecutive attempt at a championship series, the Indios de Mayagüez ended their title drought by winning the 19th title in their history with a dramatic 2-1 victory over the Giants in front of close to 10,000 fans at Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium. .
The Indians will be the representatives of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series, which will be played in Venezuela from February 2 to 10.
Mayagüez, the franchise with the second most championships in the league behind the Criollos de Caguas (20), rose to the top of the winter ball for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign and put an end to a suffering of four consecutive finals without raising the champion trophy. In the fifth straight, they came in with a 2-16 record in their last four Finals and trailed 3-2 Tuesday in the series against the battle-hardened Giants.
Mayagüezan third baseman Emmanuel Rivera has been with the Indians since 2016 and has experienced the agony of losing firsthand in the past four years.
“We are happy. It was what we sought for so many years. Thank God, we were given the chance now. It’s baseball. Many things can happen on the ball. We don’t give up and we keep working hard every year. Thank God it was given to us.” Rivera stated.
After winning Game 6 2-1 at Estadio Isidoro “Cholo” García in dramatic ninth inning fashion, they took over the Clemente Walker to celebrate the championship alongside veteran mentor Mako Oliveras, who replaced fired manager Luis Matos late in the game. of the regular phase to get out of a bad streak.
In his 13th final in the winter tournament, Oliveras – 76 years old – raised his record of championships to eight, the most winner in history. He had acquired his last, also with the Indians, in the 2009-10 season.
The Indians entered the postseason in the fourth and last qualifying position and in the semifinals they dominated the Criollos, their executioners in the 2021 and 2022 finals, in six challenges.
Shortstop Jeremy Rivera was named the series Most Valuable Player.
“This tastes like glory to me because we have lost so many times. It doesn’t have to be said. Everyone knows what has happened. It’s frustrating when you lose. Nobody wants to lose. Winning and obtaining this award lets me know that I contributed, like all my colleagues. Very grateful,” Rivera said.
Mayagüez took advantage of an erratic second inning from starter Eduardo Rivera to give his first crush. Blaine Crim walked and then advanced second on Dany Ortiz’s single.
Immediately afterwards, Anthony Garcia was hit to load the bases. Following a Roberto “Bebo” Pérez strikeout, Jeremy Rivera, hero of the Game 6 victory in the ninth inning, hit an infield groundout to force out at first base and advance the Crim to home plate.
“We stayed confident. We gave ourselves confidence. With that Game 6 win), he gave us more energy. We already knew that the series was tied and we had to play hard today to get the victory”, commented Rivera.
The visiting side of the stadium celebrated the tribe’s goal, while the locals were not intimidated and continued to wave the yellow towels.
In the fourth, they were overshadowed by the Indians’ second score. Garcia was again hit by a pitch and, with two outs, Richie Palacios drove him in with a double that stung into the left-field corner.
North American starter Rob Whalen was terrific in shutting down the Giants for 6 1/2 innings to clinch the championship-sealing win. He gave up four hits, no scores, striking out seven, with no runners advancing to third base.
Dan Wirchansky relieved Whalen in the bottom of the seventh with a runner on first. The local fans woke up with José Sermo in the batter’s box, but the slugger struck out. Delvin Perez kept the “lucky inning” alive with a single to center field to give way to veteran Carolinian Ozzie Martinez, but he hit into the glove of outfielder Chavez Young.
The Giants threatened again in the eighth with a hit by Bryan Torres and one out on the board against the pitches of reliever Miguel Romero. Jeremy Rivera scored the play of the night by catching a ground ball from Gabriel Cancel on his chest. Lying on the field, Rivera passed the ball to Richie Palacios to get Torres out at third base. The play was unsuccessfully reviewed for the Giants. Carlos Francisco entered for Romero to strike out Jan Hernández.
American closer Braden Webb was in charge of getting the last three outs but he was first brought up early by a Jan Hernández hit, followed by a Rubén Castro double that put runners in scoring position to wake up the Carolinians in the stands, who opened umbrellas when it starts to rain.
Webb managed to strike out Sermo and force Dervin Pérez to hit first base for the second out with Hernández scoring the first for the locals. The last out was Martínez to end the game.
The losing pitcher was Eduardo Rivera, who worked for six innings with two runs allowed, three free tickets and four fanned out.
Carolina was in their first final since 2007, the year they won their second and last championship in their history. The squad was directed by Edwards Guzmán, in his first year of experience as a manager in winter ball.
Guzmán was awarded Manager of the Year after the Giants finished second in the regular season with a ninth without big names. In the semifinals, they also went to seven games with the Cangrejeros de Santurce.