Winter League Playoffs 1/21– Venezuelan League’s Three-Way Tie; Welch Wins Fan Favorite
Catching up with Pirates’ players and friends in the winter league playoffs on Saturday:
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Indios de Mayaguez 8, Criollos de Caguas 4 — suspended in the 9th inning
Los Criollos began the game with 2 runs in the top of the 1st, won a hit batter, an RBI double by SS Luis Figueroa, then another RBI double to drive in Figueroa. Figueroa scored again in the 5th inning when he beat out a relay throw to first on what might have been a double play. He stole second base, then scored on an RBI single. Los Indios started scoring in the 4th, and scored in five consecutive innings. One run scored on a rare throwing error by Figueroa in the 4th. A walk, a double, and a single scored 2 runs in the 5th, and a solo homer brought in one run in the 6th. Two singles, a triple, and a sacrifice fly added 3 runs in the 7th, and another solo homer in the 8th raised the score to 8-3. Justin Thomas pitched the top of the 8th for Los Indios, and he struck out the side. Los Caguas started a rally in the top of the 9th (after Thomas had been relieved) with a single, an RBI double, and another single. With runners on the corners and no outs, rain suspended play. If Mayaguez holds on for the win, they will have a 4-2 lead in the 9-game championship series.
Leones del Escogido 5, Aguilas Cibaenas 2
Los Leones opened the Dominican best-of-9 championship series with a win. They scored 2 runs in each of the first 2 innings and never gave up the lead. The first two runs scored on a throwing error and a passed ball, after a single and a walk. Los Leones loaded the bases on 3 singles in the 2nd, then another single and a grounder force out drove in 2 runs. A single and a double, plus a sacrifice fly in the 5th finished Los Leones’ scoring. Los Aguilas scored one run in the top of the 1st, with a single, a wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly. RF Brandon Moss gave Los Aguilas their only other run in the top of the 6th, when he led the inning off with a solo homer.
Navegantes del Magallanes 8, Tigres de Aragua 5
The Venezuelan League wrapped up the round-robin portion of their playoffs with two games tonight. Los Tigres opened the game with a triple, then a sacrifice fly and a 3-run homer gave them a 4-run lead. Los Navegantes tied the score with a 2-run home run in the 1st, and 2 more runs on a double, a triple, and a single in the 2nd. Each team scored one run in the 3rd — another triple for Los Tigres, and 3 singles for Magallanes. That was all for Los Tigres, though, and Los Navegantes kept going. They scored one run in the 6th on a double and an RBI single, and finished with a 2-run homer in the 7th. DH Hector Gimenez went 0-for-4, and CF Jonel Pacheco went 1-for-3 with a single in the 2nd.
Tiburones de La Guaira 11, Aguilas del Zulia 4
Zulia lost their final game of the round-robin tournament, giving them a 3-13 record for this part of the playoffs. Los Aguilas scored one run in the bottom of the 1st on a triple, and an RBI single by C Carlos Maldonado. Los Tiburones scored 4 runs in the 3rd, 3 in the 4th, and one in the 5th. Three singles, a sacrifice fly, and an RBI double gave Los Aguilas 3 more runs in the 5th, but Los Tiburones got those runs back with a 2-run homer in the 8th, and a run on an error and two singles in the 9th.
The Venezuelan League’s round-robin tournament ends with Los Tigres de Aragua in first place with a 10-6 record. Los Aguilas del Zulia are clearly last (5th), but Los Caribes de Anzoategui, Los Navegantes del Magallanes, and Los Tiburones de La Guaira all have a 9-7 record. A 2-game playoff will be held on Sunday — Los Navegantes vs Los Caribes in the first game, and the winner playing Los Tiburones in the second game.
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
Yaquis de Obregon 3, Algodoneros de Guasave 2
The Mexican Pacific League championship series (best of 7) began with a win for Obregon. Los Yaquis took a 2-0 lead with solo homers in the 1st and 3rd innings. Guasave got one run back in the top of the 4th with three singles. They tied the score int he 7th on a solo homer. Los Yaquis broke the tie in the bottom of the frame, when they loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. Another walk forced in what would turn out to be the winning run for Los Yaquis. CF Corey Wimberly went 0-for-3 for Los Yaquis, and was hit by a pitch.
Brisbane Bandits 7, Adelaide Bite 6
The Bandits kept their playoff hopes alive with a win in the final game of the regular season, despite two 9th inning homers by 3B Stefan Welch and 1B Calvin Anderson. Anderson had 3 hits in the game, while Welch had 2. The Bandits scored first, with a solo homer in the 2nd inning. The Bite tied the score in the bottom of the inning with a run on three singles. Brisbane took a 5-1 lead with 2 runs in the 3rd, and a 2-run homer in the 5th (by 1B David Sutherland, who had the 2nd inning homer as well). Each team scored a run in the 6th, with the Bite scoring on three singles, one by Anderson. The Bite made it 6-3 with one run in the 7th inning, on a walk, a balk, and a single by Welch. The Bandits had a solo homer in the top of the 9th. The Bite returned fire with a 2-run homer by Welch in the bottom of the inning, followed by a 2-out solo home run by Anderson. But a ground out ended the inning and the game, before the Bite could score again. The homers were Anderson’s 11th of the season and Welch’s 5th.
Stefan Welch was voted the Aces’ “Fan Favorite” of the Bite. The overall league winner of the ABL Fan Choice award will be determined by voting on the ABL teams’ Facebook pages, beginning on Monday.
Melbourne Aces 10, Canberra Cavalry 7
The Aces clinched second place with a win over the Cavalry. Melbourne began with a 3-run 1st inning. The Cavalry scored one run in the 2nd on an RBI single by C Travis Scott, then took a 4-3 lead in the 3rd with two walks, a double, a single, and a ground out. Two runs in the bottom of the 3rd gave the lead back to the Aces, 5-4. Canberra jumped ahead again with back-to-back doubles and an RBI ground out by Scott in the 5th, for a 6-5 lead. But the Aces came back for a big 4-run bottom of the 5th, and took a lead they would not give up. They loaded the bases on two walks and an error, then a triple cleared the bases and a sacrifice fly drove in the batter who had tripled. they tacked on one more run on three singles and a walk in the 6th. The Cavalry made one last attempt with a 1-run rally in the 9th. Scott collected his 3rd RBI of the game with a ground out following a walk and a double.
The Perth Heat have won first place in the final standings, with a 34-11 record. The Melbourne Aces are second, even though they have a losing record: 21-24. The remaining four teams, the Cavalry, the Bite, the Brisbane Bandits, and the Sydney Blue Sox are all tied with identical 20-25 records. The playoffs officially begin on Thursday, 1/26, presumably with the Heat and the Aces squaring off in one game. There is a complicated list of rules to determine what to do in ties… so I’m not sure if they are going to have any play-in games or not.