The Talaabwogh Falcons soared past the NSA Braves, 7-4, in the finals of the Senior League division of the 2018 Saipan Little League Baseball last Sunday at the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield.
Relief pitcher Pedro Maratita shut down the Braves in the last 4.5 innings and gave up only three hits to help the Falcons notch the division crown—the team’s third straight.
Maratita took over the pitching duties from Jericho Jones with the Falcons ahead by only two, 6-4, at the bottom of the third inning with no outs. Maratita then struggled early in the mound, hitting two batters by pitch, while the Braves loaded the bases to threaten the Falcons.
However, a big defensive stop—a double play at home and first base—saved the day for the Falcons. Maratita’s pitch was fielded by catcher Arby Yaguel, who first tagged out runner Josenio Alvarez before throwing to first baseman Melan Sablan for the second out (on J.P. Celis). Maratita then struck out Froilan Camacho in the ensuing play to end the pivotal inning and leave Tom Agulto stranded at third.
The Falcons continued on to play solid defense in the last four innings to frustrate the Braves. Maratita got his second strikeout at the bottom of the fourth and left two Braves runners stuck at first and second, while the Falcons outfielders Joel Norita and Crusito Pangelinan caught fly balls for the two other outs.
In the fifth inning, the Braves went down quick with the first and third batters forced to a 5-3 and 6-3 putout plays, while Maratita fanned the second batter. The Falcons closer followed it up with back-to-back strikeouts on the Braves batters to start the bottom of the sixth and then caught a fly ball from Vicente Camacho to keep Leveque Iguel and Tyrese Camacho at third and first base. Tyrese singled, while Iguel was hit by a pitch and stole second and third before failing to reach home due to Maratita’s defense.
Another 1-2-3 inning at the bottom of the seventh—Alvares and Agulto flying out at right and center field, respectively, and Sean Rabauliman going out on a 4-3 play— ended the Braves’ bid for a pair of championships this season. The Braves won the pennant after finishing the regular season with a 9-3 record, just one win ahead of the Falcons.
The Falcons, however, had the final say after winning last weekend’s title match. The victory over the Braves also averted a Falcons shutout this season, as the group’s teams in the Majors and Junior League earlier lost in their championship games.
The Falcons got off to a slow start in the finals, making only one run in the first two innings off Maratita’s RBI single at the top of the first inning. The Braves, on the other hand made two runs at the bottom of the first—off Alvarez’s RBI single and Vicente Camacho’s RBI double.
Neither team hit the board in the second inning before the Falcons registered four runs at the top of the third to steal the lead, 5-2. Again, Maratita scored an RBI with his single bringing leadoff batter Aven Evangelista home, while the Falcons’ three other runs were off an RBI walk and the Braves’ pair of errors.
The Braves then countered with only two runs at the bottom of third to still trail. Both runs were unearned with Tyrese Camacho reaching off a Falcons defensive booboo and Vicente Camacho scoring off a passed ball. Vicente’s run turned out to be the last for the Braves, while the Falcons added two more—off an RBI walk from Pangelinan in the fourth and Evangelista’s run from a Braves’ miscue—to keep their safe distance en route to the finals win.
Evangelista collected three runs off a 2-for-4 performance at the plate, while Maratita was 2-for-3 and chipped in one run besides his two RBIs. Norita was also 2-for-3 and contributed two runs. Kavika Fernandez delivered the other run—at the top of the third off the Braves’ error—for the Falcons.