Game 18: Caribbean 5 vs. MEA 3

Despite Mistakes, Curacao Takes the Cake

Author: Zach Swartz - Special Correspondent

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date/Time: Monday, August 24, 2009, 6:00pm ET

Some games in the Little League World Series are a reminder that this is, after all, still Little League.

Monday night’s contest at Volunteer Stadium between the Caribbean champs from Curacao and Middle East & Africa Region Champs from Saudi Arabia was one of those games.

The teams were knotted at 3-3 going into the bottom of the fifth, but not a single one of those runs had scored via base hit. Four errors, three wild pitches and a passed ball took the place of the RBI as scorekeepers tossed their books to the wind.

So it was almost unpredictable that that the would-be winning run would come on a home run.

Looking for a fastball, Curacao shortstop Junters Dossett broke the pattern, the tie and his 1-for-5 tournament on one swing. It was a two-run homer, a no-doubter to centerfield off Saudi Arabia starter Alex Husain’s 85th and final pitch. And with that, Curacao took a 5-3 win in Pool C play.

Curacao finished with a 3-0 record in pool play and owns the top seed in the Thursday’s International semifinal. It will take on either Mexico or Chinese Taipei, who face each other Tuesday for the top seed in Pool D.

When asked if he was surprised that the game had been won by home run, Dossett simply nodded and said, “yes.”

Husain was coming out after that pitch anyway, but the homer meant the difference between a no-decision and a loss.

He didn’t deserve either. He had thrown 4.2 innings, allowed one earned run and fanned eight to that point.

“It was my call,” Saudi Arabia manager Dan Somogye said. “I call the pitches and that was my mistake. So, I let him down, I felt, because he pitched a beautiful ball game. He has nothing to hang his head about. Of course he was upset. He’s a competitor, and if he wasn’t upset, I’d wonder what’s going on.”

Husain’s offense had been stalled by the opposing hurler as well. Jardel Martina lasted five innings of his own while racking up 11 strikeouts.

The MEA Region Champions, who with the loss will not move on to an International semifinal, had a tough draw the whole tournament. Venezuela, Curacao and Japan have a combined 42 Little League World Series appearances and nine total championships in their past. Saudi Arabian teams, meanwhile, have appeared 20 times but won none.

“This bracket, with Latin America, Japan and Caribbean, with all the Little League World Series that they’ve won, and we come in and we go toe-to-toe with them? You talk about a moral victory. There is no greater moral victory than that. The kids in Saudi Arabia, the Little Leaguers, will be talking about this team for a time to come,” Somogye said.

The opening goose eggs on the scoreboard broke in the bottom of the first. Curacao leadoff hitter Sedwin Reigina took first after taking a ball off his hand, then moved to second on a Rubiangelo Monte sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, Claycandy Hariquez nubbed an infield single to put runners on first and third. With Richendly Bicentini batting, Hariquez began inching towards second. The MEA catcher, not forgetting about the other runner, faked a throw to second then tossed to third. The ball skipped out to left field, and both runs scored.

It was an omen of what was yet to come.

The MEA Region Champions earned its first lead of the game in the fourth by way of two errors, a passed ball, a single and a fielder’s choice. But it lost it in the bottom frame when a wild pitched tied the score at 3-3.

Dossett’s two-run homer, which came with two outs in the fifth, was the difference.

Curacao manager Vernon Isabella was pleased with the win, although he was quick to admit that it wasn’t pretty.

“I’m feeling good going into the next round,” he said through interpreter Alecto Nicolaas. “But not as glad as yesterday because of they did not play very well.”

Hariquez, who gave up two hits and one run in a complete game victory against Venezuela on Saturday, will take the mound Thursday. Should his team win out, Dossett will pitch in the International Championship next Saturday, and Hariquez again in the World Series Championship Sunday.