The Saipan Stevedore Yankees are back in the finals after missing last year’s championship series.
The Yankees punched the first finals berth in the 2014 Saipan Baseball League after completing a sweep of the Northern Starz with a 7-5 victory in Game 2 of their best-of-three semis series last Monday night at the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield. The 2012 champions put the needed defensive stops at the bottom of the ninth and last inning to eliminate the Northern Starz.
The Northern Starz had a strong chance of forcing a standoff in the last inning, as it had runners on third and second base with one out. However, the Yankees got the two quick outs to shut the door on the Northern Starz. Second baseman Kelvin Kapileo fielded a grounder from Jared Camacho and threw to first baseman Gary Cruz for the second out, while closer Franco Flores picked up a short shot from Ben Lizama and also threw to first base for the third out.
The Yankees had to lean on their defense in the closing innings after the Northern Starz managed to tie the match in the sixth inning. A four-run bottom of the sixth brought the Northern Starz back into the game after they failed to buy a single run in the first five innings. First baseman John Acosta blasted a two-run single, while Jason Camacho and Ben Lizama hit an RBI single and an RBI double, respectively, to keep the Northern Starz in the match. Earlier in the fifth inning, the Yankees scored three runs off Ben Flores’ RBI single, a wild pitch, and error at second base for a 4-0 advantage. The first run came in the fourth inning with Greg Iskawa reaching home off a passed ball.
Threatened at the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees called third pitcher Dung Tenorio to replace second pitcher Manny Cabrera and the former halted the Northern Starz’s rally with a strikeout and the inning ended after a fly out from Juan Iguel.
After the Northern Starz’s run, the Yankees regained their composure quickly, scoring three runs in the next two innings to reclaim the driver’s seat. Brian Camacho’s single at the top of the seventh drove home Ben Flores, while Kapileo stole home for the Yankees’ 6-4 advantage. The Yankees then made it a 7-4 lead at the top of the eighth with A.J. Lizama also hitting an RBI single.
Down by just three, the Northern Starz refused to give up and cut the deficit to two at the bottom of the eighth with Cedric Ada drilling a single and bringing Ben Lizama home. The Northern Starz had a chance to move closer with runners on third and two outs, but Ada was caught stealing second.
Despite the missed opportunity, the Northern Starz remained in contention when it shut out the Yankees at the top of the ninth. At the bottom the ninth, Tenorio walked leadoff batter Lamarc Iguel, who eventually made it to third off a Yankees error at shortstop and the former’s wild pitch. E.J. Tenorio batted next for the Northern Starz and flied out, while Mike Iguel advanced to first off A.J. Lizama’s fielding booboo. Lamarc Iguel and Jason Camacho, who pinched run for Mike Iguel, then got stuck at second and third after the Yankees secured the two needed outs.
After ousting the Northern Starz, the Yankees will face the winner of the Brewers-Fielders semis series in a best-of-five title showdown. The Brewers and Fielders, who slugged it out in the finals last season, played Game 1 of their semis tiff last Friday and results of the match will be reported in Saipan Tribune’s Thursday edition.