Game 32
World Championship

5 vs. West 2
Sunday, August 29, 2004
6:30PM ET

Curacao cures Caribbean curse
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 story.

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.

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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© 2004 Little League Baseball Incorporated