Two outs into the bottom of the fifth inning and Edwin Cervantes knew his time on the mound after Sunday was over. He had reached a pitch count that required four days rest.
But Cervantes, a tall, hard-throwing left-hander, made sure a trip to the Pony League World Series for Guasave, Mexico, wouldn’t end prematurely.
In a dominating pitching performance in which he nearly went the distance, a rarity in Pony League, Cervantes saved Guasave in a 3-0 win over East Zone champion Hagerstown, Md., in an elimination game at Lew Hays Pony Field Sunday.
“He looked so good on the mound. He felt fresh,” Guasave coach Jose Maria Pardini said. “He was himself, hitting his spots and dominating all the batters.”
The win for Guasave advances it to another elimination game this morning against Arecibo, Puerto Rico (10 a.m.). Brownsville, Texas also avoided elimination by defeating European Zone champion London, United Kingdom, in the nightcap, 12-2. Brownsville will play Simi Valley, Calif., today at 12:30 p.m. The loser of that game will be eliminated.
Cervantes mixed a pinpoint fastball consistently in the mid-70s and a curveball he was willing to throw on any count to keep Hagerstown hitters guessing.
He went 62/3 innings, allowed only two hits and struck out 11 before being removed after exceeding the 95-pitch limit. Johan Lopez entered in relief to get the final out and secure the victory.
“We are not used to seeing a big left-hander who can throw that hard and spot his fastball like that,” said Hagerstown coach Dave Barr. “He also had that outstanding curveball. So far, he’s the best pitcher I’ve seen in this entire tournament.”
Guasave gave Cervantes what looked like an insurmountable one-run lead in the top of the third inning. Jose Alvarez hit a one-out single, stole second and was driven in the last 80 feet on an single by Luis Liera just inside the third-base bag.
Hagerstown’s lone scoring chance came in the bottom half of third inning when Dylan Shoemaker hit a double near the right-field line. A relay of throws from Guasave easily threw out Cyncere Kelley trying to score.
That lead was extended in the seventh inning – the only other runs scored in the game – by Guasave taking advantage of mistakes made by Hagerstown. An error to lead off the inning led to four consecutive walks, a wild pitch and two more runs for Guasave to take a 3-0 lead.
“We didn’t want to leave,” Pardini said. “Our players did their best. That’s what we wanted.”
Brownsville 12, London 2, 6 inn.
The South Zone champions took full advantage of errors to make the record book in a Mercy-Rule victory over London.
Brownsville broke a record that stood for 38 years as it stole 18 bases. The previous record for steals in a single game (15) was set by Oak Park, Ill., in 1981.
“That is what really got us here,” said Brownsville coach Rene’ Zayas. “We have always been very aggressive. That’s a record we are really excited about. We are going to continue to do it.”
Until the bottom of the sixth inning, Brownsville had multiple pitchers combining for a no-hitter until London’s Ricky Sumii hit an opposite-field single to right field. Easi Puente, Alejandro Casillo, Rudy Lopez, Alex Guajardo and Angelo Solis combined to pitch a one-hitter.
A two-out throwing error committed by London in the second inning is where it started to unravel. The error led to four unearned runs in the second inning for Brownsville. Five of the first six runs scored against London starting pitcher Kei Hori were unearned.
Brownsville extended its lead to 9-0 with RBI singles from Andre Gamboa, Juan Garcia and Rene Zayas in the fourth. It reached the Mercy Rule when Ismael Villareal hit a two-run double off the right-field fence to make it 11-1 in the sixth inning.
“Overall, we really came out to play,” Zayas said. “Our approach was different in the first game and the kids were a little nervous. We changed our plan and went back to the way we are used to doing things. We have quite a bit of speed.
“We are taking every single game one at a time. All these teams are here for a reason. We just have to come in with the same attitude and aggressiveness.”