You know it’s the playoff round in the 2017 Saipan Baseball League when games go down to the wire.
A day after the Falcons pulled off an improbable 4-3 victory over Go See Mark, the BSI Aces escaped with a 9-8 win against the defending champions Chalan Kanoa Bears in Game 1 of their own best-of-three semis series last Tuesday night at the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield.
Nokki Saralu delivered the winning hit at the bottom of the ninth and last inning, making up for an earlier error that put the Bears ahead, 8-7, after the top of the ninth. Saralu, who played third base for the BSI Aces failed to catch a grounder from Henry Lizama, giving Freddy Songao enough time to run from second to home and allowing the Bears to break the deadlock. Saralu would later commit another booboo that brought Peyton Lizama to third, but fortunately for the BSI Aces, the latter was left stranded and Henry was stuck at second after Jeffrey Lizama was booted out on a 4-3 play.
Down by only one, Juan Iguel led off for the BSI Aces in the last inning and singled. His brother Jesus also had a base hit, while Ben Jones blasted another single for the squad and sent Juan home to knot the count. Saralu was next at bat and with Jesus on third and no out, the BSI Aces third baseman let go off two low pitches from closer A.J. Lizama before making contact with the third one. The ball headed past second base and in between the center and right field with the Bears struggling to pick it up allowing Jesus to sprint home for the winning run.
With the thrilling victory, the BSI Aces moved a win away from dethroning the Bears, who incidentally swept the former in last year’s best-of-five title showdown. Game 2 of the BSI Aces-Bears short Final Four series will be played today with the defending champions hoping for a win to force a rubber.
The Game 1 loss was a sorry one for the Bears as they led early after shutting down the BSI Aces in the first three innings, 4-0. The Bears even appeared set to pull away when they added two more runs at the top of the fourth for a 6-0 advantage. Jeffrey Lizama pitched for the defending champions in the early part of the game and threw a no-hitter in the 3.2 innings he worked the mound before being relieved by Kiku Lizama.
However, the Bears slowly lost their good lead, as the BSI Aces started to rally at the bottom of the fourth after scoring four runs. Jesus Iguel had an RBI single and also reached off a Bears error at centerfield, while John Tudela made a triple that brought Jones home. Manny Cabrera scored the BSI Aces’ other off another Bears’ defensive lapse.
The BSI Aces then tied the match after five complete innings off Angel Falig and Barry Sunumai’s runs, while the Bears temporarily regained the upper hand at the top of the sixth off Jose Lizama’s RBI single. At the bottom of the seventh, the BSI Aces forced the second standoff when Saralu singled and sent Jesus Iguel home, while neither team scored in the eighth, keeping the series opener in a deadlock.
At the top of the ninth, the Bears were called for two quick outs, but they remained patient and later capitalized on Saralu’s errors to break the tie anew. However, Saralu redeemed himself in the end and moved the BSI Aces closer to a return trip to the finals, which will be a best-of-five affair.