CNMI splits first two games in baseball
After defeating Guam in a thrilling opening game in the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 last Thursday, 4-1, the CNMI National Baseball Team came crashing back to Earth after losing to a dynamite Palau squad, 13-2, last Saturday at the Francisco “Tan’Ko” M. Palacios Baseball Field.
Starting pitcher Lorenzo Sebalkim almost couldn’t get past Palau’s speedy and powerful lineup after giving up five runs in just the first inning.
Relief came with a pitching change when Jacob Babauta was brought in, but even he could not hold back the powerhouse that is Palau as he gave up another four runs that made the score, 9-0.
The NMI finally got some hits against Palau ace pitcher O’Neil Yobech after two runs were batted in by Ben Jones Jr. who brought in Lamarc Iguel and Anthony Tenorio, who also made contact and brought in Dennis Cabrera at the bottom of the fifth inning.
During a double play attempt by Team NMI, the safe call by the second base umpire was disputed by NMI coaches. After a couple minutes of deliberation, the double play was confirmed which led to cheers from the home crowd.
As the game went on, Palau batters made contact with almost every pitch and that brought about a third pitching change for Team NMI as John Peter Sablan was sent in relief in the fourth inning.
Sablan still couldn’t hold Palau back as the visitors scored four more runs which led to the final score of 13-2.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Team NMI actually tried but failed to score any more runs and the game was called off via the 10-run mercy rule.
After the game, Team NMI head coach Derron Flores accepted their defeat against Palau after a great run against Guam. He said there was a missed call in the first inning that cost the team a ball when the umpire called a 12-second count on their pitcher. Flores explained that they are using Major League Baseball rules when there’s no rules on when the pitcher should release the ball.
He didn’t take anything away from how good Palau played though.
“Palau came out prepared… Palau came out to play. We just fell short. We accept this defeat, and it will only make us better. We’re going to come out strong on Monday and come back on the winning side.”
Last Thursday, the CNMI beat Guam in a game that seemed to have brought the whole island in attendance to witness the rivalry between the neighboring islands.
Prior to the game, the opening ceremony rededicated the newly reconstructed baseball field in honor of Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios wherein his family members graced the field and took photos to commemorate the moment.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Team NMI catcher Franko Nakamura and the field and teams were then blessed by Bishop Ryan Jimenez.
The first game saw Team NMI lead after A.J. Lizama hit two runs in. Afterwards, Nakamura hit a solo homerun that extended Team NMI’s lead, 3-0. The homerun was greeted with an eruption of cheers and applause from spectators all around the field and could be heard by motorists passing Beach Road.
Pitcher Joshua Jones had an almost perfect game when he struck out 14 and allowed Guam only one hit and one run.
The only player from Guam who hit against the ace pitcher and scored a run was Javen Pangelinan, who put up one run against the NMI for a score of 3-1.
Finally, Anthony Tenorio scored the last run for a score of 4-1 in favor of the NMI.
In an interview with Nakamura on his solo homer, he said “It just happened. See the ball, hit the ball… I stopped at third base and thought, “what just happened?”
Joshua Jones was also interviewed on the great game he pitched and said “I’ve never pitched with so many people out… my teammates had my back and I got their back. We’re not done yet.”
Team NMI’s next game is today against Fiji at 2pm at the Francisco “Tan Ko” M. Palacios Baseball Field.