Falcons survive Ol’Aces

Falcons manager Doru Camacho, third left, and coach Mike Cruz greet their players after winning against the defending champions Ol’ Aces in the opening game of the 2018 Saipan Baseball League last Monday night at the Francisco M. “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield. (Jon Perez)

The Falcons squandered a four-run lead, but managed to squeeze out a 10-8 decision in their 11-inning game over the defending champions Ol’Aces at the start of the 2018 Saipan Baseball League last Monday night at the Francisco M. Palacios Ballfield.

The Natibu Sports Association-supported Falcons were up 8-4 after only 8 1/2 innings and needed only three outs to secure the win in their early rematch against the Ol’Aces. The Falcons lost to the Ol’Aces, 3-1, in best-of-five title series last year.

However, the Falcons failed to close the game in regulation, as starter Frankie Lieto got Ol’Aces leadoff batter Jeremy Atalig to an infield fly for the first out, but later walked Vince Torres, who then scored on an Angel Falig double. Jesus Iguel drove in Falig and moved to second on a Lieto wild pitch before reaching home plate on a Ben Jones Jr. RBI single to make it 8-7.

Lamarc Iguel was next at bat and had a fielder’s choice as Falcons third baseman Kolbey Kaipat made the throw to shortstop Ken Kalen to tag Jones out at second base and prevent an Ol’Aces runner from advancing.

Nokki Saralu was safe on a Kaipat throwing error with Lamarc Iguel scoring on that play to tie the game. Saralu was then caught out at second, as Falcons catcher Henry Iguel made a quick throw to Kalen.

The game remained in a deadlock after one extra inning, as neither team scored in the 10th, setting up another thrilling finish in the 11th and this time the Falcons capitalized on the Ol’Aces’ errors.

A.J. Evangelista was hit by pitch and moved to second on a Giovanni Mira bunt single to put two runners on base for the Falcons at the top of the second extra inning.

The Ol’Aces made a pitching change after that with Saralu coming in for reliever Joe Guerrero. Saralu then walked Ian Norita to load up the bases, while Evangelista took advantage of a wild pitch to steal home for the Falcons’ go-ahead run. Mira pushed the lead to two runs on another Saralu wild throw.

Saralu settled down after that and retired Kalen and Bradley Lieto for the two quick outs. He walked Frankie Lieto to put runners at the corners, but Joaquin Sablan struck out for the third out.

Evangelista closed out for the Falcons at the bottom of the 11th and caught Jesus Iguel swinging for the first out. He forced Jones to fly out to left fielder Norita to move the Falcons closer to their season-debut win. Evangelista walked Lamarc Iguel in the next play, but the Ol’Aces shortstop was caught out at second to end the game.

Frankie Lieto lasted 9 2/3 innings for the Falcons and gave up six earned runs on nine hits with five strikeouts and six walks. Norita went 4-for-5, scoring a run and an RBI, while Pua was 2-for-3 with a run. Kaipat hit 2-for-4 and had two runs and a triple.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays and Outlaws played in the second game of the season, but results of their duel last night were unavailable at press time. SBL will have no match tonight in observance of Ash Wednesday.

In related news, the Blue Jays are managed by Froilan Camacho, not Froilan Tenorio as earlier reported.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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