Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Winter Leagues: Criollos de Caguas take 2-1 series lead in Puerto Rico finals

Hiram Bithorn Stadium
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Criollos lead series 2-1
I - CAG 1; SAN 0
II - SAN 6; CAG 3
III - CAG 4; SAN 2
IV - Wednesday

Caguas      4
Santurce   2

Puerto Rico: David Vidal's HR is the difference as Criollos de Caguas win Game Three, and take 2-1 series lead against Cangrejeros de Santurce.

For a third straight game in this Serie Final, the home team failed to win.

Los Cangrejeros de Santurce fell for a second time to los Criollos de Caguas at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.  Los Criollos now own a 2-1 series lead, with Game Four scheduled for Parque Sola Morales on Wednesday.

A pair of fielding errors by Santurce second baseman Abiatal Avelino in the first inning paved the way for two unearned runs and an early lead for Caguas against Cangrejeros starter Hiram Burgos.

Making his third start of the post-season, Criollos right-hander Jose de la Torres made the hosts regret the errors of their ways, limiting them to just a pair of hits by lead-off batter and left fielder Drew Ferguson through the first 3.2 innings of the game.

Then the rain came...

After a brief delay, a home run to left off the bat of third baseman David Vidal in the top of the fourth gave Caguas some much needed breathing room.

As expected, the quiet didn't last.  The league's top team during the regular season inevitably threatened in the bottom of the sixth.  Jose de la Torre surrendered back to back singles, but regrouped to strikeout Cangrejeros first baseman Neftali Soto on three pitches.  On the next play, however, an error by Caguas shortstop Jack Lopez loaded the bases.  Abiatal Avelino then bounced to third base for a force, but first baseman Ruben Gotay was unable to handle David Vidal's throw to complete a double play.  The runner from third scored making it a 3-1 game.  Criollos manager Luis Matos then took the ball from Jose de la Torre and handed off to reliever William Oliver.  Santurce catcher Christian Vasquez promptly greeted him with a double to center, scoring one.  But Caguas escaped further damage when Avelino was thrown out at the plate while also attempting to score.

Caguas reliever Miguel Mejia took over pitching duties and pitched a scoreless seventh.

Then rain delayed the game a second time.

Upon resumption of play, Caguas handed off to reliever Ricardo Gomez for the bottom of the eighth. With two outs, los Cangrejeros put runners on the corners but failed to plate the tying run.

Caguas scored a sorely needed insurance run in the top of the ninth on DH Randy Ruiz' RBI double.

Gomez walked the lead-off batter in the bottom of the ninth, but got the next two Cangrejeros batters to pop up in the infield.  Left fielder Drew Ferguson kept Santurce's at-bat alive with a single to right, but shortstop Ivan DeJesus Jr. then flied to right ending the game.

Jose de la Torre earned the victory.  Ricardo Gomez notched his fifth save of the playoffs.


Dominican Republic

The final four round-robin is done.  With Tuesday's Tigres del Licey victory over Leones del Escogido, coupled with Gigantes del Cibao loss against Aguilas Cibaenas, the Dominican League serie final is set.  Licey will play against Aquilas for the championship.  With a 27-23 regular season record, the now eliminated Gigantes finished just a game ahead of Licey, and a mere two games ahead of third place Aguilas.

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