MINNEAPOLIS -- Eleven players returned from last year's Dominican Republic squad with one goal in mind: win the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities World Series.
Those 11 players remembered the feeling of defeat from their 3-0 loss to Los Angeles RBI in last year's title game. They never wanted to experience it again.
"The worst feeling is playing, giving it all you have and just everything's done," Dominican Republic second baseman Lorena Spaulding said. "Last year was real bad. This year, we worked for this since Day 1. We kept reminding the girls, 'Do you remember the feeling -- that hurt, all those struggles. Crying in the airport?' These girls knew what they came for."
They came and they conquered, capturing a 7-6 victory over Harrisburg RBI on Sunday at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium to win their first RBI World Series Championship since 2008. And they did so relying on a team strength that brought them there -- the long ball.
The Dominican Republic hit two home runs, including World Series Most Valuable Player Bismedy Perozo's go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth. Perozo seemed an unlikely hero after struggling in her first six games of the World Series. She was just 3-for-17 in six games until providing the big hit on Sunday.
"I was surprised," Spaulding said. "Everybody goes through a slump. But it really paid off after slumping."
Dominican Republic RBI slugged its way to the title all week, launching 11 home runs in its nine games, including Saury Tejada's three-run shot in the first inning on Sunday. That homer was a particularly big boost after Harrisburg opened up a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, highlighted by Cassidy Pinchorski's inside-the-park homer.
But the early deficit did little to distract the Dominican squad from its mission.
"Well, the game wasn't over," Spaulding said. "It just got started. We told them to just keep fighting. They all kept their head in the game and that's just what happens -- a good outcome -- when everyone is supporting each other."
Lorena Guerrero Feliz -- the Dominican Republic's top pitcher -- got the start but mostly struggled. Guerrero allowed all six of Harrisburg's runs on nine hits and two walks.
Then they turned to Elsy Pichardo, who was virtually unhittable. Pichardo threw four scoreless innings to finish off the game, only giving up one hit.
Pichardo went 5-0 in the World Series, posting a 0.78 ERA in 27 innings.
"[Pichardo] is a very good pitcher," Dominican coach Carlos Galva said. "[Feliz] wasn't very good today. She was a little slow. She didn't have control of her pitches. But Pichardo was great."
If there were any tears shed by the Dominican players this year, they were tears of joy. Spaulding said last year's championship game loss made this win even sweeter.
"Oh, my God," Spaulding said. "That feeling -- all the hard work you put in, all the practices ... It was just amazing."
Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com.