Game 2
Latin America
12 vs. Canada 2
Friday, August 20, 2004
5:00PM ET

Oh Panama!
Panama tops Canada 12-2 in Lamade opener

by David Graham-Caso

The Latin America Champions from the Curundu Little League in Panama City, Panama had a rough road to Williamsport. The team was 1-3 in their regional pool play, which allowed them into the semi-finals of the tournament as the fourth seed. They then narrowly bested Colombia in the semifinal and the Panama “A” squad in the final to win a berth in the 58th Little League World Series.

In Friday’s Pool C opener against the Canadian champions, the Curundu team showed exactly how little their tumultuous journey up to this point has affected them. Panama upended the East Nepean Little League from Ottawa, Ontario 12-2 in front of 7,350 fans at Lamade Stadium.

“This is the World Series, this is the best competition in the world,” Panama manager Carlos Mosquera said through a translator. “The Latin America region is very tough. We had to beat the team that was supposed to be here (previously undefeated Colombia) in the semifinals to get here. We didn’t hit in the Latin America tournament, but we are hitting here.”

Panama, which prides itself on flawless defense (the team did not make a defensive error throughout the entire Latin America Regional tournament) dug itself a hole before ever coming to the plate.

The Canadians capitalized on Panamanian nerves in the top of the first inning. East Nepean lead off hitter Jesse O’Byrne tattooed an Alexis Martinez offering to the opposite field which skipped by Panama right fielder Bayron Haynes. O’Byrne advanced to third on the Haynes error and then scored on a passed ball. The Latin American battery did not calm down much after the passed ball. Later in the inning, Matthew DeLuca crossed home on a wild pitch giving Canada the early 2-0 advantage.

“I was a little nervous,” admitted Martinez. “But I adjusted and I controlled the game.”

“Controlled the game” is an understatement. After the first inning jitters got worked out, Martinez settled into a groove and never came out of it. The only batter to reach base after the first inning was Alexandra Bellini, who walked on a full count with two outs in the fourth. Martinez tossed a complete game, allowing only the lone hit and walking just one in his winning effort.

Canadian hurler Alex Bladock also ran into early trouble. The pitcher barely escaped the bottom of the first inning unscathed after allowing consecutive hits to the first two batters he faced. In the Panama half of the second inning, Martinez significantly helped out his own cause by hammering a three-run blast well over the centerfield fence. After Martinez’s homer, the wheels came off the wagon for East Nepean. Three errors allowed Eduardo Thomas to circle the bases and then Sergio Rivera belted the second Panama home run of the inning. Rivera’s shot was a two-run round tripper which gave his squad a 6-2 lead.

Canada manager Mike Crepin left his starter in for the duration of the game.

“(Alex) has been our best pitcher,” Crepin said. “I asked him if he wanted to stay in for us, and he said that he did. He has earned the right to stay in.”

Panama tacked on four more runs in its half of the fourth. Brian Rodriguez knocked in two runs with a pinch hit double and the next batter, Mario Gonzalez plated both Rodriguez and himself with a frozen rope over the centerfield fence.

Panama next faces Kunto, Poland Sunday afternoon at Volunteer Stadium. Canada will attempt to rebound Monday against Asia at Lamade Stadium.

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© 2004 Little League Baseball Incorporated