The Padres pulled off a come-from-behind win over the NSA Braves, 5-2, in the opening game in the 2014 Saipan Little League Baseball last Friday at the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield.
A five-run bottom of the sixth inning saved the defending champions from losing their early rematch against last season’s runners-up. The Padres, who edged the Braves in the last year’s finale, 2-1, had to make a rally after failing to hit the board in the first five innings.
The defending champion faced a 0-2 deficit after five and a half innings, as shortstop Ray Saralu handed the Braves their second run when he advanced to first off an error, marched into second and third off wild pitches, and was driven home by K.D. Kalen’s single at the top of the sixth inning. Haini Blas scored the first run for the Braves, courtesy of a sacrifice fly from starting pitcher Frankie Lieto.
Lieto shut out the Padres in the first five innings, as he recorded 11 strikeouts and allowed only three hits before leaving the mound in favor of Brandon Lieto.
With Frankie Lieto out, the Padres began hitting their targets and advancing to bases to steal the win from the Braves. Malcolm Aaron led off for the Padres and was hit by pitch, while left fielder Josiah Delos Reyes put the team on the board, as he singled and made it all the home off the Braves ‘ errors. Another Braves miscue at second base brought relief pitcher and fifth batter A.J. Lizama home and evened out the match, 2-2.
Then the defending champions grabbed the lead, as right fielder T.J. Sablan blasted a single and drove home Steven Cabrera and Lancaster Secharmidal. Sablan also reached home after another Braves booboo at second base for the three run lead with no outs. Two more Padres batters connected on their attempts and advanced to second and third before the Braves stopped the bleeding with Brandon Lieto striking out Jerome Reyes. The Braves then stranded the two Padres runner after catching two fly outs to end the agonizing inning.
Now trailing, the Braves must score at least three runs at the top of the seventh to extend the game, but Lizama, who relieved Secharmidal at the mound, struck out the first and third batter, while Ray Tenorio and Thomas Reyes teamed up for a 6-3 putout play against Frankie Lieto to give the Padres the victory.
Meanwhile, the Padres-Braves tiff came after the brief opening ceremony that saw the 31 participating squads joining the traditional parade of teams. The 15 squads from the Major division took the field first, followed by the six teams each from Junior and Senior, and four from the Big League.
The Saipan Southern High School JROTC Manta Ray Batallion then did the presentation of flags, followed by the ceremonial welcome remarks and speeches. SLLB, Inc. president Tony Rogolifoi delivered the welcoming remarks, while Senate President Ralph Torres, Saipan Mayor Donald Flores, and CNMI District Administrator Mike Borja also addressed those present at the opening ceremony.