With Sean Cruz and Pete Perez fanning 13 batters, and all the run support the two hurlers could hope for, Guam won the 3rd annual Micronesian Baseball Classic gold medal game.
On Friday, against the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Team Guam exited the Paseo Baseball Stadium as champions, 8-3.
To advance to the finals, CNMI first had to beat a pesky Pohnpei. CNMI, trailing most of the game, scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. In dramatic come-from-behind fashion, CNMI edged Pohnpei, 4-3.
“It’s always a lot of pride to wear a Guam baseball jersey,” said Cruz, who in two days will be playing professionally in Australia for the Malvern Baseball Club Braves.
In a game marred by poor defense (15 total errors) and late offensive starts, in the bottom of the sixth inning, Guam’s Jared Palomo broke open a scoreless tie. Slugging a shot to center field, Palomo’s blast highlighted a four-run inning.
“I knew I had it,” Palomo said. … "To break out like that, and get a really good hit, not just something that just kind of made it through, was just a great feeling."
As Shon Muna Jr., Palomo, Isaiah Nauta, and Jarren Gumataotao crossed home plate, a relieved starting pitcher relaxed.
“It’s baseball,” said Cruz, the winning pitcher, who struck out eight batters and gave up five hits. “You can’t expect everything to fall into place, right off the bat. I'm glad our guys hung in there, tight, and bats woke up, and we ended up winning the game,” added the 2012 Southern High School graduate.
“We did it as a team. It’s a lot of pride to wear a Guam baseball jersey.”
Taking a 6-2 lead into the top of the eighth inning, and the game apparently in the bag, Guam made a pitching change.
With Roke Alcantara on the mound, Guam’s defense began unraveling.
After nailing the first batter faced, and the infield committing two more errors, Guam’s once-safe lead was in reach. And, after CNMI’s AJ Lizama rifled a shot to right field, Alcantra exited the game.
With one away and five outs from the title, Perez took to the mound. Throwing heat, the former minor leaguer, who plays independent ball in Texas, struck out the remaining five batters.
“It was a good time, coming back home and playing with some of the guys I grew up with,” Perez said. “I was just executing my fastball, down and away. CJ (Borja) did a great job behind the plate, sticking a lot of the balls that were, maybe, a little bit off of the plate.
“All in all, it’s a great team win.”