The Top 3 teams lived up to their lofty billing, while McDonald’s pulled off a stunner at the start of the playoff round of the Major division of the 2014 Saipan Little League Baseball last Saturday at the Miguel “Tan Ge” Basa Pangelinan Ballfield.
In the first win-or-go-home match, the top-ranked and defending champions Falcons downed the last-seeded Laolao Bay, 6-1, while No. 3 finisher Braves eliminated the hard-fighting Little Legals in the third match, 4-3. Joining the Falcons and the Braves in the Final Four were the fourth-ranked Comets I and seventh-seeded McDonald’s, which prevailed against No. 5 Enforcers, 12-8, and the No. 2 IT&E, 5-4, respectively.
McDonald’s pulled off an upset against its higher-ranked foe after earning a come-from-behind win. Down at 2-4 after five completing innings, McDonald’s racked up three runs at the top of the sixth and last inning to steal the lead and kept it after a 1-2-3 play at the bottom.
A fielding error from IT&E second baseman Devon Ayuyu gave McDonald’s two runs and tied the match, while Jared Reyes scored the go-ahead run off an RBI walk from Kiku Hapdei. McDonald’s then hung on to the shaky lead with the shortstop Reyes tagging and second baseman L.J. Reyes teaming up for a double play at second and third and first baseman Donovan Deleon Guerrero grounding out IT&E third batter Jaime Pangelinan.
Duplicating McDonald’s close playoff win were the Braves, who needed two extra innings to thwart the determined Little Legals. Relief pitcher Vicente Camacho saved the Braves season, as made the game-winning hit, blasting a single at the bottom of the eighth inning to drive home Isaiah Teigita.
Before Camacho’s crucial hit, the Little Legals threatened the Braves, leading at 3-1, going into the bottom of the sixth inning. The Braves went on to force an extension, thanks to catcher Joe Tudela, who notched an RBI double and reached home off a Little Legals error at second base. In the first extra inning, neither team scored with the Little Legals going 1-2-3, while closer Pedro Maratita getting two strikeouts, including the last that left the Braves’ Anthony Dizon stranded at third. In the second extra fame, the Little Legals had a good chance to score, but were caught stealing third for the third out, leaving two runners stuck. As for the Braves, they got off to a bad start at the bottom eighth with Tudela flying out before Teigita advanced to first off Maratita’s error and was later driven home by Camacho’s base hit.
While the Braves needed extra innings to oust their foe, it took the Falcons half an inning early to march into the semifinals. Justin Cangco pitched the defending and pennant champions to victory, taking care of the mound for 3.6 innings and allowing only three hits and one earned run. Aven Evangelista relieved him in the latter portion of the top of the fourth and gave up no hits, while striking out two.
J.P. Celis scored Laolao Bay’s lone run in the fourth inning off Kavika Fernandez’s RBI single, while the Falcons made it to the board in the first four innings to dictate the tempo of the game. The Falcons got three runs in the first inning and one each in the next three.
Comets I also took only five and a half innings to boot out the Enforcers. The easy win was highlighted by Francisco Frederick’s two-run homer at the bottom of the first inning. Frederick and company went on to bag seven runs in the first inning for a promising 7-1 advantage. Comets I kept its safe distance and cruised past the Enforcers after allowing the latter to score in only two of the last five innings.
The Enforcers were without runs in the second and third inning before saving three at the top of the fourth, but still trailed, 4-11, as Comets I added two runs each in the second and fourth. The Enforcers than made one final push at the top of the sixth, drilling four runs, but Comets I halted the rally with a double play with catcher Sebastian Saures catching a fly ball and then throwing to second baseman Tyrone Ongelungel, who tagged out Ignacio Mendiola.
Meanwhile, Comets I challenged the Falcons for the first finals berth yesterday, while the Braves and McDonald’s dueled for the second finals seat. Results of both matches will be reported in Saipan Tribune’s Tuesday edition.