Eliminated Puerto Rico goes out on high note
Host club earns walk-off win over Dominican Republic in its Caribbean Series finale
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The Caribbean Series' semifinal field was set before the Dominican Republic's Gigantes del Cibao and Puerto Rico's Santurce Cangrejeros took the field on Friday night at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, but the matchup between the rivals still meant something. It always does.
This time it meant a 3-2 walk-off win for Puerto Rico. And for at least 3 1/2 hours, the host team set aside its disappointment from being eliminated from contention on Thursday night.
"Our guys showed a lot of heart tonight," Puerto Rico manager Eduardo Perez said. "To win this game in front of a full house against our Dominican brothers showed a lot. We played hard, from the first inning of the first game in this tournament and the entire season."
Twins Minor League outfielder Daniel Ortiz was the hero of the night for Puerto Rico, driving home pinch-runner Osvaldo Martinez for the game-winning run in the ninth inning.
It was also quite a game for Phillies third-base prospect Maikel Franco, who suited up for the Dominicans. Puerto Rico led 2-1 with two outs in the ninth when Franco drove in the tying run. He also tied the game at 1 with a home run in the fifth inning.
The Caribbean Series continues Saturday when the Dominican Republic takes on Mexico's Tomateros de Culiacan in the first semifinal game. Venezuela's Caribes Anzoatgui and Cuba's Pinar del Rio will play in the nightcap. The Caribbean Series championship game is scheduled for Sunday night.
"We know that Mexico has a good team, but at the end of the day, it's about the team that executes," said Dominican Republic manager Audo Vicente. "We have the talent. We have the young players. We just have to keep doing what we have been doing and stay positive, move runners and put them in scoring position."
As for Puerto Rico, it lost its first three games of the tournament and was eliminated Thursday when the Dominican Republic defeated Mexico. Santurce finished the tournament with a 1-3 record.
"Looking back, I would have still done everything the same way," Perez said. "We had a lot of opportunities and a lot of missed opportunities that we didn't capitalize on, both offensively and defensively. That's the difference in our record. The guys know it and I don't have to tell them. They know the game and I know the game."
Puerto Rico has not won a Caribbean Series title since 2000. They'll try again next February when the event is held in the Dominican Republic.
"That's again the beauty of the game. We could be on the other side," Perez said. "We were in a position where we were at the mercy of other teams. It went against us and we put ourselves in that position. It's still a great tournament and a great series. There's a lot of talent here and I wouldn't change a thing. I would make the same decisions, same pitchers and same hitters, just would want a different outcome."