Falcons stun GSM in semis series opener

Ricky Joe Riungel reacts after getting the third and last strikeout and lifting the Falcons to a 4-3 victory over Go See Mark in Game 1 of their best-of-three series in the 2017 Saipan Baseball League last Monday night at the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

From undefeated to the brink of elimination.

The Falcons are a win away from advancing to the finals and booting out highly-favored Go See Mark following a 4-3 upset in Game 1 of their semis series in the 2017 Saipan Baseball League last Monday night at the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield.

The Falcons’ victory ended GSM’s 14-game winning streak and put the latter in a must-win situation in tonight’s Game 2 as their Final Four showdown is only a best-of-three affair.

The pennant champion GSM was stunned in the series opener as it was held to one run in the first eight innings and fell short in its late rally at the bottom of the ninth.

The last inning started with the Falcons ahead by 3, 4-1. Diego Camacho led off for GSM at the bottom of the ninth and was struck out by closer Ricky Joe Riungel, who relieved Franklin Lieto midway at the top of the eighth.

Next up for the GSM was Jesse Brel, who hit a single, stole second base, and eventually made it home off a sacrifice fly from fourth batter Tyrone Omar. Omar let go a shot to far left field with the ball appearing to be going over the fence, allowing Brel to run home and third batter Anthony Tenorio to advance to second and third. However, Omar’s fly was caught by Peter Lieto, as the latter ran fast and chased the ball.

Now one out away from taking the series opener, Riungel continued his strong performance on the mound, getting the second strikeout against two balls on GSM batter Peter Tomokane. However, Tomokane connected on his fifth swing with the ball going over the head of Falcons second baseman Giovanni Mira, who leapt to catch the ball, but failed. The error gave Tenorio time to run home and moved GSM one run away from forcing the deadlock with Tomokane on second base.

The tough task of delivering the game-tying hit then fell on the shoulder of Byron Kaipat, who got off to a bad start, as he came up with an empty swing. Riungel threw two pitches to Kaipat and they were ruled as balls before the former got the second strike on another empty swing from the latter. For his fifth pitch, Riungel was on target as Kaipat came up with another empty swing, allowing the Falcons to escape with the Game 1 win.

The Falcons, who made it last to the semifinals after beating Titanium in a playoff game, set up the upset after scoring in the first three innings while limiting GSM to one run from the first to eighth.

A.J. Evangelista handed the Falcons their first run at the top of the opening inning when he reached off GSM’s error at third base, while Mira got the second run off a fielder’s choice. Mira recorded another run in the third inning off a sacrifice out from Darren Pua, while Henry Iguel lit up the board for the Falcons in the second inning off another GSM defensive miscue.

GSM, on the other hand, scored its first run at the bottom of the third with Brel’s sacrifice fly bringing Camacho home. Camacho’s run came after GSM were called for 1-2-3 innings in the first two. The pennant champion then had a chance to earn more runs in the fourth when they loaded the bases with two outs, but starting pitcher Franklin Lieto fanned out Camacho to frustrate GSM.

After another 1-2-3 inning in the fifth, GSM again loaded the bases in the sixth, but Lieto was also there to strike out Camacho. The Falcons pitcher went on to get another strike in the seventh inning and left Omar stranded at second base before Riungel took over the mound.

Riungel and the rest of the Falcons defense then held their ground in the last two innings to foil GSM’s late rally and move closer to a stint in the best-of-five title series.

Meanwhile, the BSI Aces and defending champions Chalan Kanoa Bears started their own semis showdown last night and results of Game 1 were unavailable at press time.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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