Game 23
Latin America
6 vs. Asia 2
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
5:00PM ET

Surging Sergio, Panama
Sergio Rivera leads Latin America champs to first-place finish in Pool C with 6-2 win

By Mark Rogoff

Panama had already advanced to the semifinal round before its battle with Taiwan, Chinese Taipei for Pool C supremacy.

Did Panama throw in the towel and take it easy knowing that they'd advance, despite first place being on the line?


"We were relaxed, but we'd rather get in first place and avoid Curacao," said Panama manager Carlos Mosquera through interpreter Carlos Pagan.

He wish was granted.

Panama used a fine-run second inning and a superb pitching performance from Sergio Rivera as the Latin America champs downed Taiwan 6-2 in front of 5,400 at Volunteer Stadium.

With the win, Panama finished round-robin play with a 3-0 record, securing first place in Pool C and a matchup with Mexico in Thursday's international semifinal. Taiwan fell to 2-1 and will take on Curacao Wednesday afternoon in the other semifinal.

"The first two wins, no one took notice because of the opponents," Mosquera said. "But now we beat Taiwan. It was a very important win for us."

Panama sent 10 to the plate in its five-run second inning. Rivera started things off with a solo homer to left and Mario Gonzalez' two-RBI double closed it out.

Gonzalez, who popped up in foul territory in his first at-bat, added an opposite-field solo long ball in the fifth.

"My coach always tells me to be patient," he said through Pagan. "I was a little more patient in the second at-bat and then for the home run."

Rivera earned the complete-game win, his lone run allowed coming from a Chao Wei-Sheng solo homer in the fourth. Rivera allowed three hits in all, and struck out seven while walking four.

"I was a little nervous," Rivera said of pitching against a tradition-rich Taiwan team. "But my coach settled me down. They have a very good team."

Catcher Christian Bethancourt also praised the Taiwan club.

"They have good defense and they run the bases well," he said through Pagan. "It was important that we beat a team (from a land) with (21) world championships."

Panama is now gunning for one of its own.

The stage is set for the four best international teams to duke it out over the next two days. Manager Mosquera is poised and ready for his boys to take on the world.

"Every team here is a champion, but I think my team is going to win," he said. "I will always go with my team." 

Click here for box scores

Photography by Caroline Connolley

2004 Little League Baseball Incorporated