CNMI shuts out Thailand in opener


CNMI Senior All-Stars' Ray Saralu torques back for a big swing against Thailand in their 2012 Asia-Pacific Regional Tournament game yesterday at Guam's Paseo Stadium. (Walter Sutherland)  HAGATNA, Guam-The CNMI Senior All-Stars opened yesterday’s 2012 Asia-Pacific Regional Tournament with 15-0 skunking of an obviously overmatched Thailand team in five innings at the Paseo Stadium in Hagatna, Guam.

Other results included Guam thrashing China, 29-0; while New Zealand was leading Indonesia, 10-0, in the bottom of the second inning.

The Senior League division also includes the Philippines, which was on a bye yesterday. The CNMI is scheduled to play Indonesia today at 11:45am.

After going three up and three down to start the game, the CNMI catapulted in front, 11-0, as they batted around the lineup two times in the second inning.

T.J. Sablan loaded the bases off an error at third base after Khobby Kaipat drew a leadoff walk to start the frame and Ray Saralu reached on a bean ball.

Davin Ada then roped a one-hopper down the left side that broke the ice for two runs; the hit was ruled an error, but it had a lot of mustard on it as found a way through the third baseman’s glove.

Lancaster Secharmidal then bunted a beauty to the left side that reloaded the bases and Frankie Lieto kept it going with an RBI blooper to shallow left field. The loft was ruled a fielder’s choice, where everybody was safe, however an extra run came in to score on the play.

A.J. Lizama stepped in next and bagged an RBI base rip to center field and Kaipat was issued another free pass that juiced the bases once again.

Henry Rabauliman was then plunked for a bonus run, after which Saralu cracked a three-RBI double over the left fielder’s head. He was later driven in by Ada before Thailand could stop the bleeding.

Needless to say although the CNMI was only credited with four hits, they capitalized on them with a whole bunch of hustle.

CNMI hurler Secharmidal was set on cruise control and orchestrated three 1-2-3 innings from the mound to keep the CNMI comfortably in control.

The CNMI then added two runs in the third inning off an error and an RBI double by Saralu and finished the game with two more in the fifth from an RBI base smash by Rabualiman and a freebie RBI walk with ducks on the pond.

The CNMI’s Jeffrey Lizama tapped Secharmedal to close the last two innings and did a good job preserving the shutout.

Saralu batted 2-for-3 with four RBIs, two runs, and a hit by pitch.

In related news, the CNMI Big League All-Stars were also playing in Guam, but had a bye last night and are scheduled to play the Philippines today (Thursday) at 5:15pm. Guam makes up the rest of the field.

The Big League’s three-team format is set up as a double-round robin where the team with the best record is declared the champion; mandatory play rules are not effect for this age group.

In addition, the CNMI Junior All-Stars advanced to the championship game in its own ASPAC event, which is being held in Nha Trang City in Vietnam’s Khanh Hoa province.

After starting strong with a pair of wins over Hong Kong (1-2) and host team Vietnam (0-3), the CNMI notched its third straight victory over the Philippines (1-2), 3-2, Monday.

According to the website they finished pool play with a 3-0 win-loss record and advanced to today’s 11am (Vietnam time) championship match where they will take on defending champion Taipei (3-0). Indonesia (1-2) was also in the race.

The CNMI Major All-Stars, meanwhile, defeated Thailand (1-1), 10-6, on Monday, but bowed to Australia (1-0) on Tuesday, 5-9. They were on a bye yesterday (Wednesday) and are scheduled to play Korea (1-0) today before finishing its pool play games tomorrow against Indonesia (0-2).

The CNMI and its opponents reside in Pool B, while Pool A is made up of defending champions Taipei (2-0) along with the Philippines (1-1), Hong Kong (1-0), Guam (0-1), and New Zealand (0-2).

Saturday’s semifinals will feature the top ranked B team taking on the second ranked A squad, followed by the second ranked A team against the first place B group. The championship is scheduled for Sunday preceded by the consolation match.

Senior ground rules

In the Senior League, the team with the best record after five games is declared the champion.

However, since there are an uneven number of teams, one team was selected to play six matches with the results of one of the games not being counted against them.

As it turns out, the CNMI was the randomly selected team and will be the only squad without a rest day. During an organizational meeting held Tuesday evening at Hotel Nikko Guam, the CNMI drew the fifth game on its schedule, which happens to be against Guam on Sunday, as the matchup that will not affect its win-loss record.

The game is still important though because the point differential of the extra game may affect the overall outcome, if the CNMI ends up involved in a tiebreaker situation after the conclusion of pool play.

Moreover, according to the tiebreaker formula, allowing less runs is more important than merely running up the score(s) throughout the week.

This basically means that, all in all, the CNMI is playing with added risks of injury and exhaustion of its pitching corps, but the team is hardly discouraged about its circumstances.

“Not having the bye is a challenge, but I am more concerned with getting off to a good start in effort to set the tone for our team. If we can get rolling early hopefully we can increase our momentum as the tournament progresses,” said team manager Derron Flores at the meeting.

Flores admitted that drawing the fifth game as the asterisk match can end up being a good thing, but insists that the team is taking it one game at a time.

He must also be extra careful in regards to satisfying the tourney’s mandatory play rules. These rules basically stipulate that every player must play six outs in addition to getting in one full at-bat in every game. Naturally, pitching depth is a concern, but Flores is confident in his players.

By Walter J. Sutherland

Walter J. Sutherland Reporter

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