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Venice unseats Dominican team as Junior RBI champs

Target Field is hosting Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities World Series for third time

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Dominican Republic's three-year reign as the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities Junior Division World Series champions came to an end on Thursday afternoon.

The Boys and Girls Club of Venice, Calif., RBI team, led by pitcher Jay Sterner, toppled Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with a 2-0 victory at Target Field.

Sterner threw a two-hit, seven-inning shutout to lead Venice to the title, dethroning the three-time defending champions. Venice finished the tournament with a 5-1 record, including a 10-0 victory over Boys and Girls Club of Pawtucket RBI team in the semifinal round.

"We spent a whole year trying to get here, so it's like having a baby," Venice head coach James Guerrero said. "It's a long process, and we're just really, really happy. We came out here to win. We had three kids returning. It's just tremendous. I'm just so happy right now."

Sterner gave up one walk and posted three strikeouts to be named the game's Most Valuable Player. He retired 19 of the 23 batters he faced and only allowed one baserunner to reach second base. He also drew three walks at the plate.

"Coming into the game, we had the scouting report on these guys, so I knew what I wanted to do," said Sterner, who hails from Culver City, Calif. "I wanted to throw strikes and not walk people. I had a great catcher calling pitches, so if you have a great catcher, pitching comes easily."

Guerrero was proud of Sterner's performance, as the left-hander was able to hold Santo Domingo in check by utilizing an impressive changeup to keep hitters off balance. During the tournament, Sterner posted a 0.70 ERA over 10 innings pitched, picking up one win and a save. At the plate, he finished with a .333 batting average and a .833 OPS, while stealing five bases, driving in two runs and scoring eight times.

"Jay is a stud," Guerrero said. "He's just a horse. He went seven innings in the regional and seven innings here. We just wanted to ride him as far as we could. Everyone talks about the Dominican pitchers, but I'd put this guy up against anybody."

Santo Domingo left-hander Pablo Ochoa was also impressive, giving up just two unearned runs on two hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. But he wasn't helped by his defense, as Venice scored both runs as a result of defensive gaffes, including a dropped fly ball with two outs in the fifth inning.

The RBI World Series, which was hosted by the Minnesota Twins for the third consecutive year, is the international baseball and softball tournament of the RBI program, a Major League Baseball youth initiative designed to provide young people from underserved communities with the opportunity to play baseball and softball, encourage academic success, and teach the value of teamwork and other important life lessons.

"You can't put it into words," Guerrero said of the impact of the RBI program. "We've now got to play at Angel Stadium, and last year, the Dodgers let us play at their stadium. And we got to meet Sharon Robinson. As a kid, I never had a chance to do anything like this. This is incredible."

Thursday's contests put a wrap on the first week of the RBI World Series, which continues next week with the softball edition in the Twin Cities.

"The Twins have been phenomenal hosts," said RBI director David James. "At least in my tenure, they've probably been the best hosts we've had just in terms of facilities and opening opportunities for the young men this week and the young women next week. They've been fantastic partners."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.
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