The CNMI Major All-Star Team got off to a good start in the 2016 Asia Pacific/Middle East Regional Championships last weekend, while the Junior All-Stars leave for Taiwan today to begin their separate ASPAC bid.
The CNMI defeated Guam, 7-3, in last Saturday’s opening game in the Little League division of the World Series qualifier at Jangchung Stadium in Seoul, South Korea. Other details of the match were unavailable at press time, as well as the results of the CNMI-Philippines game yesterday.
The John Maratita-managed Major All-Stars were the first CNMI team to leave the island to vie for the World Series slot. The squad is in Pool A of the field along with Dubai, India, and the host country. The Top 2 teams after the pool play will advance to the playoffs. Pool B has Saudia Arabia, Hong Kong, Chinese-Taipei, Thailand, and China.
Meanwhile, the CNMI Junior All-Stars will be battling Guam, Chinese-Taipei, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Australia.
The schedule of games in the Junior League ASPAC has yet to be posted at the event’s website as the tournament will not start until June 29, but at this early, manager Manny Evangelista picks the Philippines and host Chinese-Taipei as the CNMI’s toughest opponents.
“Chinese-Taipei almost always fields a strong team in the tournament, while the Philippines has been doing well in the last few years,” Evangelista said.
Chinese-Taipei won last year’s ASPAC held on Saipan as the Taiwanese were declared champions (based on pool play results) after a typhoon cut short the regionals. Chinese-Taipei was supposed to play the CNMI in the afternoon finale, which was called off due to Tropical Storm Chan-Hom. The Commonwealth defeated Australia in the semis to set up a title match against Chinese-Taipei, which eliminated the Philippines in the other Final Four pairing.
Majority of the members of last year’s CNMI Junior All-Stars Team are back for this year’s ASPAC and Evangelista is counting on his players’ chemistry and experience when they try anew to gain entry to the World Series after a tough break in 2015.
“Our players have been together for years so they know each other’s tendencies and that’s a good sign for any team. This year, our bullpen is also very strong so hopefully that will work to our advantage,” the team manager added.
The CNMI is bringing only a 14-player roster to Taiwan. The list includes Dennis Cabrera, Tyrese Camacho, Vicente Camacho Jr., Justin Celis, Spencer Dickinson, Aven Evangelista, Angel Iguel, Philip Kapileo, Pedro Maratita, Ignacio Mendiola, Dai Podziewski, Jode Reyes, Joe Tudela, and Arby Yaguel. Completing the squad are head of delegation Yvonne Camacho, head coach Michael Cruz, assistant coach Vicente Camacho, and umpire Michael Muna.
The group had to work double overtime in training sessions, according to Manny Evangelista, as the Saipan Little League Baseball season ended late.
“We had practice in less than a month, five teams a week,” the manager said.