The Falcons eliminated pennant champion Go See Mark by pulling off another shocker, 6-5, in Game 2 of their best-of-three semis series in the 2017 Saipan Baseball League last Wednesday night at the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield.
GSM, which swept the 14-game elimination round only to be booted out in the playoffs, gambled on a big defensive play and lost as second baseman Diego Camacho had an errant throw that allowed the Falcons’ Frankie Lieto to score the go-ahead run at the bottom of the eighth inning.
Lieto led off for the Falcons in the penultimate inning that started with the score tied, 5-all, and singled before making it to second and third in the ensuing plays. Frankie Lifoifoi was next at bat and went down after an interference violation. J.J. Lifoifoi then batted third and walked, while Henry Iguel was next to the plate. Iguel went on to hit a grounder, which third baseman Peter Tomokane picked up and threw to Camacho. The GSM second baseman caught the ball and beat J.J. Lifoifoi for the second out, but the play did not end there as Camacho decided to throw the leather to first, hoping for a double play. The pass intended for Byron Kaipat was wayward, prompting Lieto to run home.
After that crucial defensive meltdown, GSM finally got the third out when centerfielder Anthony Tenorio caught a fly from Giovanni Mira, leaving Iguel stranded at first and A.J. Evangelista at second.
GSM then had a chance to tie the game at the top of the ninth inning, as Jesse Brel managed to get to third base after moving to first off a Falcons error at shortstop, stealing second, and advancing again after Tenorio went down on a 6-3 putout play. Tenorio was the second GSM batter to sit down as leadoff batter Shane Yamada flied out to center field.
With two outs and Brel at third, the game-tying hit could have come from Tyrone Omar, however his line drive was caught by second baseman Mira, ending the match in favor of the last-seeded Falcons.
The Game 2 win was a come-from-behind one for the Falcons, as they faced a 0-5 deficit after five complete innings. GSM, which lost Game 1 by one run, too (3-4), made it to board in the third inning off Omar’s RBI single and widened the gap at the top of the fifth off Brel’s two-run triple, Tenorio’s sacrifice fly, and Kaipat’s RBI double.
However, GSM failed to keep the upper hand when the Falcons mounted a comeback at the bottom of the sixth inning. Evangelista started the Falcons’ rally when he scored off GSM’s error at home, while Ian Norita hit an RBI single, and Bradley Lieto made an RBI double to move their team within two, 3-5, with no outs. GSM then temporarily halted the Falcons’ run when it caught two fly balls, however Iguel nailed a two-run single to force the deadlock before the pennant champion got the third out in the next play (6-3 putout against Evangelista).
The game remained in a standoff in the seventh before the Falcons broke the tie, capitalizing on GSM’s pivotal error in the eighth inning to oust the regular season top finisher and take the first finals seat.
J.J. Lifoifoi pitched for the upset-minded Falcons in the last four-inning shutdown of GSM. He had four strikeouts and gave up only two hits.
With the series sweep, the Falcons now await the winner in the other Final Four pairing featuring the defending champions Chalan Kanoa Bears and BSI Aces. The BSI Aces won Game 1, 9-8, last Tuesday and Game 2 was played last night, but results of the match were unavailable at press time.