The Chalan Kanoa Bears wrapped up the best-of-five championship series in the 2019 Saipan Baseball League after downing the Mariners, 6-1, in Game 3 last Saturday at the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield.
The finals sweep gave the Bears back-to-back titles and three in the last four seasons. The Bears earned a 3-0 record in their championship showdown against the Aces in 2016 and were awarded the crown in 2018 during the shortened SBL season (won Game 1 vs Go See Mark just a couple of days before Super Typhoon Yutu hit the island) before dominating the Mariners this season.
Versus the Mariners, the three-time champions had a free victory in Game 1 (forfeit), eased their way to a 14-3 triumph in Game 2, and shut down their foes in the first five innings to clinch another title.
Virgil Secharmidal pitched for the Bears in the first five innings and nearly threw a no-hitter, as he yielded only one hit—a single from Nate Camacho at the top of the third inning. The starting pitcher also recorded seven strikeouts.
Secharmidal fanned out two batters in the first inning with his second strikeout leaving Camacho and Eli Aughenbaugh stranded at second and first base, respectively. The Bears pitching ace got two more Ks in the second inning and left McGwire Iyekar stuck at first base. In the third inning, he caught a fly from Nate Smith for the second out before giving up a single on Camacho, who was then left at first base, as Bears shortstop A.J. Lizama caught a fly from Aughenbaugh.
The Bears’ defense continued to hang tough in the fourth inning with Secharmidal having the biggest stop in that juncture. He had two more strikeouts with his second ending the inning and leaving Jon Villagomez at third base and Iyekar at second. For his last stint on the mound, Secharmidal started the fifth inning by striking out Pat Tenorio and the Mariners were forced to a quick 1-2-3, as the former picked up a shot from Camacho and threw to first baseman Angel Palacios for the third out. The Bears got the second out off a 6-3 putout play and the defending champions took a 6-0 lead after five complete innings.
Leadoff batter Kiku Lizama gave the Bears their first run when he reached off a sacrifice out from A.J. Lizama in the first inning. The Bears did not score in the next two innings, but made up for it in the fourth and fifth. A.J. Lizama and Ricardo Dela Cruz delivered two runs off the Mariners’ errors at the bottom of the fourth. Palacios reached in the fifth inning off Dela Cruz’s triple, while Henry and A.J. Lizama did the same, courtesy of a hit by pitch and the Mariners’ error, respectively.
The Bears went on to keep the 6-0 advantage in the sixth inning, as the Mariners were called for three quick outs anew at the top with Aughenbaugh and Gary Cruz out on a double play and Villagomez flying out.
With their season nearing its end, the Mariners made one final push to extend the series at the top of the seventh inning. Jonah Flores led off for the Mariners and flied put at second base, while Iyekar doubled and reached off the Bears’ throwing error to out their team on the board. Tony Tenorio was the Mariners’ third batter and went down on a 5-3 putout play, leaving the Bears one out away from clinching the title.
However, the Bears’ celebration was delayed a bit, as Pat Tenorio singled, Smith walked, and Camacho moved to first off a fielder’s choice. With the bases loaded, the Mariners had another fielder’s choice, but Smith, who advanced to second, was called for an out at third, ending the season in favor of the Bears.