With two outs in the top of the seventh inning, and Arecibo, Puerto Rico, comfortably holding a 4-0 lead over Guasave, Mexico, survival in the 2019 Pony League World Series was all but settled.
What was less certain, however, was whether starting pitcher Joel Core would polish off a a complete game, the first of the series.
This uncertainty didn’t stem from a loss in effectiveness from Core, but rather a question of pitch count. Core was at 95 pitches, which is right at the tournament’s limit. So if he didn’t get the last out, he would have no choice but to give way to a reliever.
Core got that 21st out, finishing perhaps the best pitching performance of this year’s tournament, and Aercibo kept its World Series alive with a 4-0 shutout win at Lew Hays Pony Field.
Not only was Core dominant on the mound – nine strikeouts and two walks on two hits – he also led Arecibo’s offense, going 2-for-2 with a two-run single that put the game out of reach in the bottom of the fifth inning.
“He was a really good pitcher,” Guasave coach Jose Maria Pardini said through a translator. “(He did) an amazing job, so that’s the thing. … It was difficult for us to hit the ball and try to get some runs.”
After three innings of scoreless play, Arecibo drew first blood when Dereck J. Trinidad drew a bases loaded walk, scoring Samuel Cruz. Puerto Rico would add three runs in the fourth, the last two coming on Core’s single. Core got the last six outs, and Arecibo rallied from Saturday’s loss to Chinese Taipei and kept its tournament hopes alive.
Mexico’s world series is done, as it lost its first game in this double-elimination tournament to Youngstown Friday night.
Taking the loss for Mexico was starting pitcher Jose Alvarez, who allowed four earned runs on six hits, walking three, striking out two and hitting a batter over four innings.
Mexico did a respectable job of keeping Arecibo’s potent offense – which had scored 52 runs in its previous six games – in check. For Pardini, however, the key to Mexico’s second loss of the tournament was its bats not being able to get the job done.
“The one thing is we’re not batting,” he said. “We have pitchers, but we’re not batting. If (we were) batting, maybe it could be another type of thing. So the batting has been a big thing.”
Puerto Rico will move on to play Youngstown, Ohio, at 10 a.m. today.
Simi Valley, Calif., 4, Brownsville, Texas 2: In the day’s second contest, Simi Valley, Calif., eliminated Brownsville, Texas, 4-2.
Brownsville got the scoring started in the top of the first on a solo home run by Andre Gamboa, his second of the tournament. Simi Valley answered with an RBI single by Ethan Pena-Edwards, and proceeded to score two runs in the second and another in the third.
Though Brownsville drew first blood, its top of the first could, and probably should have been bigger.
Kevin Ibarra singled to lead off the game, but was subsequently picked off first by starting pitcher Trevor Hansen. The next batter, Tony Villareal, singled, but Villareal, who was the winner of the tournament’s Fasteest Runner competition, got a poor jump and was thrown out trying to steal second base. Both head coaches acknowledged the significance of the two base running mistakes early on.
“That changes the philosophy of the game,” Brownsville head coach Rene Zayas said. “Those two runners could have been two additional runs, and it would have been a 3-0 lead.”
“That’s a huge huge momentum turning point,” said Simi Valley head coach Ken Gill. “Brownsville was able to get the guys on … Things happen, and to be able to erase that momentum by picking guys off a base is huge.”
Hansen, only lasted 11/3 innings for California, but this was done by design, with the intent of saving his arm for later in the tournament should Simi Valley advance.
“Trevor is one of our big game pitchers,” he said. “He came in, did his job, threw 35 pitches. (He) started us off on the right foot, and then after that, it was all about saving him.”
Sebastian Carchi came on in relief of Hansen, and kept Brownsville at bay for the most part. Over the remaining 5 2/3 innings, Carchi allowed just one unearned run on four hits, struck out three and walked one.
“He’s a phenomenal pitcher, always has been,” Gill said. “Very strong arm, and hits his spots very well.”
For Brownsville, Easi Puente took the loss, giving up four runs on four hits, issuing four walks, and striking out nine batters over 4 1/3 innings.
Simi Valley will take on the loser of last night’s game between Bay County, Mich., and Washington County at 12:30 p.m. Simi’s lone loss in the tournament came at the hands of Washington County, 11-1, Sunday afternoon.
Brownsville’s tournament comes to an end with a 1-2 record. For Zayas, the way his team performed in its win over Hagerstown was how it needed to play all along to advance further in the week
“I think the way we’ve played in game two is the way we’ve been playing since we started playing back in Louisiana,” he said. “I think if we would have kept that same momentum, that same composure, that same aggressiveness, that same flawless, no errors and being very productive with the bat, it would have been a different outcome. The kids, they tried their best, and that’s all I can hope for.”