Commentary

Three advance to Caribbean Series

Originally Published: January 26, 2009
By Enrique Rojas | ESPNdeportes.com

Three of the four participants in the Caribbean Series were defined Sunday, as leagues in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico crowned champions.

Tigres del Licey in Dominican Republic, Leones de Ponce in Puerto Rico and Venados de Mazatlan in Mexico wrapped up their series, while Leones de Caracas took a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series in the Venezuelan League. The Caribbean Series will be held Feb. 2-7 in Mexicali, Mexico.

Dominican Republic

Anderson Hernandez drilled a walk-off hit in the 12th inning against reliever Franklin Núñez, which brought home Ronnie Belliard as the Tigres completed a five-game sweep of Gigantes de Cibao, 4-3.

Licey won the best-of-nine series with a sweep for the first time in their history and tied Aguilas Cibaeñas as the top Dominican teams, with 20 championships apiece. These two teams have split all 14 titles since 1995.

With the game tied 3-3, Belliard drilled a single to start the 12th inning against Núñez (0-1) and reached second base on a bunt by outfielder Emilio Bonifacio. Erick Aybar received an intentional walk, setting the stage for Hernández's line drive, which left fielder Caonabo Cosme couldn't handle.

Cubs reliever Carlos Mármol couldn't get the job done for Licey in the ninth inning. Angels starter Ervin Santana pitched three-hit ball over five scoreless innings for Licey.

Puerto Rico

In Ponce, three Leones pitchers combined on a three-hit shutout in an 8-0 victory over Lobos the Arecibo in a jam-packed Francisco Montaner Stadium. Eduardo Pérez, ESPN baseball analyst and son of Hall of Famer Tony Pérez, won his first championship as manager in the Puerto Rico league.

Left-hander Héctor Mercado and relievers Pedro Feliciano (Mets) and Fernando Cabrera were helped by a 15-hit attack that gave Ponce its 11th league championship and sent a record-breaking crowd of 15,103 fans home happy.

For Leones, veteran free agent Iván "Pudge" Rodríguez had a double, two hits and one RBI; Andy González homered and had two singles, while DH Gabriel Martínez went 3-for-4, including two doubles and a triple.

Mercado (1-0) allowed all three Lobos' hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out four, and was named MVP of the championship series. Josué Matos (0-1) was the loser.

Mexico

At Los Mochis, Christian Quintero homered off Alberto Castillo in the first inning, leading Venados to a 3-2 victory over Cañeros, giving Mazatlán a four-game sweep.

The win gave American manager Lorenzo Bundy his third title, each with different teams -- a league record.

Venados scored in the third and seventh innings on RBI singles by Miguel Ojeda and Jon Weber. Sergio Valenzuela (1-0) retired 10 straight batters in relief of starter Alfonso Sánchez, while Héctor Navarro pitched the ninth for his second save, although he allowed a two-run homer to Ramón Orantes.

Venezuela

In Maracay, first baseman Alex Cabrera drove in two runs and Brad Knox held Aragua's offense in check for 7 2/3 innings in Leones' 4-2 win over Tigres.

Cabrera doubled in a run in the first inning and singled home another in the fifth in sharing center stage with Knox (1-0), who allowed two runs on four hits, striking out four and walking two batters. José Ascanio had a perfect ninth inning as he notched his second save of the series.

Left-hander Horacio Estrada (0-1) pitched only 2 2/3 innings and was charged with the loss.

The series continues Tuesday at José Pérez Colmenares Stadium in Maracay.

Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.

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