Game 8
Pacific 0
 vs. Latin America 1

Saturday, August 19, 2006
6:00PM ET

Venezuela Waits for Win
Rain Suspended Game Ends With Single from Valera

By Brandon Miller
Special Correspondent

After having to wait an entire extra day, Pool C play continued its rain suspended game at Little League Volunteer Stadium as the Cardenales Little League team from Barquisimeto, Venezuela defeated the Saipan Little League team from Saipan, CNMI 1-0 in eight innings.

The game, which originally began after an hour rain delay, started at 7:00PM on Saturday evening and was suspended after seven and a half innings of shutout baseball, forcing the Latin American All-Stars to wait until Monday morning to take their cuts at the plate in the bottom of the eighth.

In somewhat of an anti-climatic finish, it took only four batters for Cardenales to push across the winning run, ending the game nine minutes after it started again.

With one out, Jordy Freitez drew a walk. A strikeout later and Freitez was able to advance on a pass ball, putting the winning run on second base with two outs. Roberto Valera did not disappoint as he sent a grounder up the middle to score Freitez and end the game.

“I’m very happy because I got the hit to end the game,” said Valera through interpreter Luis Sanchez.

For Venezuela, the win was their first completed game of the tournament, and eased some of the angst in the clubhouse knowing that every other team had played at least one game, some teams already completing two.

“We were somewhat anxious because we had a 0-0 record, but we were calm,” said Cardenales manager Domingo Carrasquel through interpreter Sanchez.

On their off day, the Latin American All-Stars tried to relax by doing a little shopping at the Lycoming Mall after a good batting practice session earlier in the day.

“The delay really didn’t affect us that much because we came here to win,” said manager Carrasquel through interpreter Sanchez.

A game that included 31 strikeouts between the two teams involved, almost witnessed Little League Baseball history as Cardenales starter Manuel Barrios struck out 16 batters in six innings, two shy of tying the record held by Chao-An Chen from Chinese Taipei and Kalen Pimentel from California.

In picking up the win in relief, pitcher Alexander Ramirez, through interpreter Sanchez, said, “I feel very happy not only for myself, but also for my teammate Manuel who pitched a good game. Now we can go out and finish the job ahead of us, that is to win.”

It was clear something special was going to happen when the game began with Barrios striking out the side.

“I generally strike out everyone, but what I care about is to win, and win the Championship for Venezuela” said Barrios through interpreter Sanchez.

Not to be outdone on the mound, Saipan pitcher Harry Nakamura shut down Latin America to the tune of only two hits while striking out eight in his six innings of work.

With offense clearly hard to come by, any way to scrape together a run would be critical. With a runner on third in the bottom of the first inning, Saipan first baseman Richard Dela Cruz made a great scoop on a throw in the dirt from shortstop Peter Tenorio to end the inning, stranding a runner at third. It was an early scoring opportunity for Latin America wasted in what proved to be a great pitcher’s duel.

What looked to be the first breaks of the game came for Saipan in the fourth. After the first two batters struck out, Anthony Salas hit a grounder between shortstop and third-base that glanced off the third-baseman’s glove and allowed the runner to reach base with the first hit of the game.

The next batter, Rocco Reyes, hit a grounder to first that hit the bag and popped over first-baseman Jose Martinez’s head for a base hit. Bearing down to ensure that Saipan didn’t push across a run, Barrios blazed a fastball across the plate and caught Anthony Manalo looking to retire the side and preserve the 0-0 tie.

Perhaps energized after giving up his first hit of the game, Barrios promptly led off the bottom of the fourth with a solid single down the left-field line. A walk to Roberto Valera put runners on first and second with nobody out and Latin America in the driver’s seat to potentially score the first runs of the game.

However, Nakamura would not back down. After Robert Guedez struck out failing to execute a sacrifice bunt attempt, Saipan right fielder Charito Kladikm made a great running catch in the gap in right-center field, and Nakamura got Gianfranco Presenza to ground out to shortstop to end the threat.

“I give a lot of credit to (Nakamura),” said manager Carrasquel.

The top of the sixth began with Saipan’s Rocky Matagolai taking a Barrios fastball in the side sending him to first base. After being replaced by special pinch runner McGarrette Duenas, Tenorio placed a perfect bunt in between the pitcher and catcher and was able to reach first without a throw. Again, seemingly energized by the threat, Barrios quickly came back and struck out the side to leave two runners stranded.

Under the oncoming rain in the eighth, Latin America centerfielder Freitez made a sliding catch on a ball hit by Tenorio, coming up with his fist pumped as he hustled back to the dugout. Unfortunately, the rain was too much and the grounds-crew pulled the tarp over the field, forcing Latin America to wait until Monday to complete the game.

Saipan manager Roy Sablan declined comment after the game.


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