Little League World Series

Game 3: Caribbean 11 vs. Europe 0

Family ties power Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico defeats Ramstein Air Base 11-0 to open international play

Author: Teddy Cahill

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date/Time: Friday, August 20, 2010, 6:00pm ET

Yomar Valentin drove a ball deep to center field in the third inning Friday night. It was headed for almost the same spot as the home run he had hit just an inning before.

Only this time, Valentin hit it even better. His second home run smashed high off the batter’s eye more than 250 feet from the plate in Puerto Rico’s 11-0 four-inning victory against Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Valentin said his second home run felt even better than the first.

“I was very emotional,” he said through interpreter Antonio Gonzalez. “I was much happier.”

Yomar Valentin and his cousins, Victor Valentin and Javier Rodriguez, made their manager and grandfather, Jose, very happy at the end of the game. Yomar and Victor combined to go 4-for-5 with three home runs and six RBI. Rodriguez started the game at first base, and was hit by a pitch in his only plate appearance.

“I’ve managed those kids for five years,” Jose said. “I know what kind of capabilities they have. I know everyone can hit a home run.”

Even with Victor’s solo homer in the second, Yomar was Puerto Rico’s star. Leading off the game, he was hit by a pitch and eventually scored the game’s first run on a two-out double from Bryan Figueroa. He finished the night 2-for-2 with two home runs and five RBI.

Given Yomar’s bloodlines, his prowess isn’t surprising. His father is former major leaguer Jose Valentin and his grandfather played for the Puerto Rican national team in 18 international tournaments.

“Yomar has the power of his father,” Jose said.

The Caribbean champions hit five home runs combined. Ramstein manager Gary Harrington wasn’t surprised by the power surge.
“They had eight hits and five were home runs,” he said. “They can hit.”

Ramstein was unable to demonstrate its own power bats against Jonathan Martinez (1-0) and Figueroa. The pair combined for a one-hitter, and Martinez struck out seven of the 10 batters he faced.

Martinez said he used his fastball, changeup and curveball to keep the European champions off balance.

“I had a lot of confidence,” he said.

By the time left fielder Kaleb Stokes collected Ramstein’s only hit to lead off the third, Puerto Rico’s offense had already taken over the game. A pair of two-out doubles in the first inning brought home two runs against left-hander Mackenzie Mueller (0-1).

In the second inning, the Caribbean champions put their power on full display. Yomar broke the game open with his first home run, a three-run blast. After a strikeout, the two-out magic began again for Puerto Rico. Victor and Figueroa launched back-to-back solo home runs, effectively ending Mueller’s night.

Mueller played on the Ramstein team that won the European championship last year. His return to Williamsport didn’t have the kind of results he hoped for, as he allowed seven runs on five hits in just 1 2/3 innings.

“He didn’t pitch a bad game,” Harrington said. “We’d rather they have home runs with no one on base. They had a three-run home run and a two-run home run and it adds up quick.”

Puerto Rico advances into the winners’ bracket, where it will face the winner of Japan-Mexico on Sunday. Ramstein, however, finds itself one loss away from being knocked out.

Harrington predicted his team will bounce back from Friday’s defeat and be ready for its elimination game Sunday.
“They want to win a game while they’re here,” he said. “That’s their goal.”