Island nation becomes first Caribbean team to win LLWS title,
topping West 5-2
By David Graham-Caso
Going into the World
Series Championship game, the book on Curacao was simple: do not
let 5-foot-11, 168-pound behemoth Carlos “Big Papi” Pineda beat
you. The Curacao slugger swings a bat like John Henry swings a
hammer. Power is an understatement when you are talking about
Pineda at the plate.
Coming into Sunday’s championship game, he was hitting a Little
League World Series-leading .700 with three home runs and six RBI.
What the Conejo Valley Little League from Thousand Oaks, Calif.,
did not count on was the surprising offensive production that
comes from the rest of the Curacao lineup.
Pineda was a factor, though not at the plate, and the Pabao Little
League from Willemstad, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles captured the
2004 Little League World Series Championship Sunday evening at
Howard J. Lamade Stadium by defeating Thousand Oaks 5-2, to win a
Little League Baseball World Series title.
The Pabao Little League began tallying runs immediately. After
reaching on a walk, Gerson Adamus advanced to second on a passed
ball and then scored on a Jonathan Schoop single to left. Pineda
was next to trot to the plate in the first inning. Thousand Oaks
starter Jordan Brower didn’t let Pineda get even a glimpse at a
fastball. The dangerous slugger whiffed at the first two
curveballs he saw, then fouled one off before succumbing to the
fourth straight curve from Brower.
“We watched (Pineda) play through the Series,” said Conejo Valley
manager Tom Ginther. “Anything high and tight, or anything up in
the zone and he was going at it. As long as the curve was down and
away, he was fishing at it.”
With Pineda heading back to the dugout, Brower appeared to have a
sigh of relief before attempting to get Jurickson Profar out to
end the inning. Profar showed the 34,550 in attendance that Pineda
is not the only threat in the Curacao lineup. The third baseman
parked a 1-1 offering in the left-field bullpen, giving his squad
the early 3-0 lead.
Pineda, who had walked one and hit one batter in the top of the
first inning, settled quickly into a groove. The hard-throwing
right-hander set Thousand Oaks down in order in the second, and
did the same in the third, fanning the next three Conejo Valley
All-Stars he faced. By the middle of the third inning, eight of
the nine outs that Curacao had recorded were on Pineda strikeouts.
“Carlos was throwing very hard,” said Curacao coach Michelangelo
Celestina through interpreter Carlos Pagan. “At the speed he was
throwing, he was unhittable.”
Curacao nearly extended its lead in its next at bat. Sorick
Liberia got the inning started, drawing a lead off walk. Rigynoel
Rondei then reached while attempting to lay down a sacrifice bunt
as Thousand Oaks first baseman Danny Leon let the dribbling ball
by him. A fly ball, a fielder’s choice and a single later, the
bases were full with none other than Pineda strolling to the
plate. Pineda wasted no time, slapping the first pitch he saw to
third baseman Hayden Cronenbold, who fielded the ball on a
short-hop and tagged third to escape the inning.
Thousand Oaks would have no such luck in Curacao’s next ups. With
two runners on, Quincey van Blarcum smoked a single to right which
skipped by right fielder Thompson. The base hit scored both
runners and van Blarcum advanced to third on the throw home.
Van Blarcum was the final batter that Brower faced. With the
deficit at 5-0 Ginther brought in Sean McIntyre to extinguish the
fire. McIntyre did his job, getting Rondei to ground out to first
and then striking out Ryandel Walter for the final out.
McIntyre not only assumed pitching duties in the bottom of the
third, but he also attempted to jump start the hitless California
offense in the top of the fourth. The lefty led off the fourth by
breaking up Pineda’s no-no bid with a single up the middle.
Curacao narrowly missed adding to their lead in the fourth. With
one out in the inning, Schoop tattooed a McIntyre pitch high and
deep to the opposite field. Thompson, who had obviously shaken off
his third inning blunder, back pedaled and snared the ball at the
fence, robbing Schoop of a round tripper. McIntyre fed off of
Thompson’s electrifying catch and got the next batter, Pineda, to
futilely swing at strike three to end the fourth.
Though the California pitching staff kept Pindea under control at
the plate, the large Curacao ace dominated the game on the hill,
striking out 11 over five innings. Inning six was a different
McIntyre recorded his second hit of the game, driving a sharply
hit line drive double past centerfielder Curtney Doran with one
out in the inning. Reserve Adam Justiniano followed McIntyre with
a no-doubter to center. The Justiniano home run got out of the
park in a hurry, cutting the Curacao lead to 5-2.
“It was a tremendous job by that young man,” Ginther said of
Justiniano. “He has been waiting all year for that opportunity. It
was great to see him have that experience.”
With his shutout gone, Pindea was removed from the game in favor
of Curacao number two starter Schoop. Tyler Karp was the first to
face Schoop. After dropping a Texas Leaguer inches foul of the
right field line, Karp demolished a ball up the middle that found
its was into the glove of Profar at shortstop. With Thousand Oaks
down to its last out, John Lister stepped to the dish. Lister
extended the Thousand Oaks season one more batter by beating out a
grounder to short for an infield single. The next batter was
Thompson, who dropped a single in shallow right, moving Lister to
third and bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of James
Brady hit a grounder to first that was bobbled by first baseman
Dimitri Eugenia. Eugenia finally squeezed the ball and beat Brady
to the bag. With the out it was official; the Pabao Little League
All-Stars comprised the best Little League team in the world.
“We were very concentrated for the game,” Celestina said. “We were
very excited. This is an honor.”
“It feels very good,” Schoop added.
“Very good,” agreed Pineda.
The Pabao Little League the first squad from Curacao to win
the Little League World Series. When they get back to their small
island nation, the World Champs can expect a different lifestyle.
“The airport will be very full,” Pineda said through translator
Pagan. “A lot of people I did not know, I will know now.”
With Sunday’s internationally televised victory, the boys of
Curacao can expect a lot of people to start recognizing them. They
can expect even more never to forget.
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