In Thursday’s World Baseball 15U Oceania Qualifier continuation game against New Zealand, one that was postponed due to darkness, Guam was three outs away from the win.
But, in the final inning, three defensive mistakes gave New Zealand the game, 4-3.
With Guam’s Zhavier Panes on the mound and New Zealand’s Bunji Nakao on third base, Hunter Southey rifled a shot to third.
“I just swung the bat hard,” Southey said.
After fielding the ball, Ayden Aguon’s throw skidded in the dirt past first baseman Nolan Babauta and rolled to the wall. Nakao, 90 feet from home plate, on a walk-off error, scored the game-winning run.
Nakao, after crossing home plate, was mobbed by his teammates.
“That felt awesome,” said Nakao, who, before reaching home, singled to centerfield. “We wanted this win. It felt really great to be the winning run. It was a great feeling, crossing the plate.”
For New Zealand, after losing Tuesday’s tournament opener to Guam, the win was payback.
“It was our first game, so we were all nervous,” Nakao recalled. “We all made errors. But, this game, we got used to the weather, got used to the climate, and we just came back.”
The continuation game, scheduled for 11 a.m., due to a scheduling snafu, was pushed back to 3 p.m. After the original officiating staff didn’t show, New Zealand protested.
“There was some concern with the different umpires," said Ray Brown, Oceania baseball development officer. “New Zealand made a request if they could have the same umpire they had in last night’s (Wednesday’s) game."
"We made that accommodation, and Guam agreed,” he added.
Heading into Thursday’s game at Paseo Baseball Field, Guam and New Zealand were tied 2-2.
In the top of the seventh inning, with two runners on base, Guam’s Jerrick Taimanglo stroked an RBI double just fair of the first-base line.
Gabriel Lesoa, the winning pitcher, thought the ball was foul.
Lesoa, angry, said the no-call was confusing.
New Zealand, trailing 3-2, had their pitcher’s back.
“It is a blessing to know that they are behind me all the way, and they are going support me, no matter what happens,” said Lesoa, who finished with three strikeouts.
Trailing 3-2, New Zealand tied the game 3-3 after a collision at home plate knocked the ball free from catcher Jarren Gumataotao. As the ball rolled to the turf, Emile Nel was called safe.
Panes, who struck out two batters, walked one and gave up a single, said, “I was under pressure.”
Panes, taking the loss in stride, said “It’s OK because it happens in baseball.”
“It is what it is,” he said.
Team Guam, at noon, in a series rubber match, will play New Zealand.
At 3 p.m., New Zealand will take on the winless Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Without working lights, later afternoon games run the risk of postponement.
“We are actually in the works of getting the lights fixed,” said Richard Ybanez, the director at the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Hopefully, the lights will be fixed by March, he said.