Friday, February 24, 2012

YANKEES ACQUIRE 17-YEAR-OLD PITCHER FROM YUCATAN

The New York Yankees and Tabasco Olmecas held a joint press conference Thursday in Villahermosa to announce the assignment of 17-year-old pitcher Rafael Ordaz to the Yankees organization. A native of Yucatan, Ordaz was signed to an Olmecas contract in 2010 by Tabasco scout Juan Carlos Uribe.

Yankees scout Lee Sigman was quoted as saying that New York has followed Ordaz since 2009, and that his 89-90 MPH fastball could potentially reach 94. The Yanks will ship the righty to their academy in the Dominican Republic within the next couple of weeks.

Olmecas owner Jose Enrique Rovirosa has visions of swinging similar deals in the future. He said at the press conference that the Yankees and Tabasco have signed an agreement to strengthen relations between the two organizations, and that "in the near future we will have several tryouts in which other major league ornagizations will come and see more young Mexican talent." As is the custom in Mexican baseball, Ordaz' playing rights were held by the Olmecas even before he signed with them two seasons ago, requiring the Yankees to first negotiate with Tabasco for the chance to sign Ordaz.

Although the Olmecas used 33 pitchers last year, Ordaz never appeared in a game for the 50-55 club.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

MEXICALI TO PLAY IN MEXICAN NORTHERN LEAGUE

The Mexicali Aguilas have announced the formation of an associated team that will play this spring and summer in the Class A Mexican Northern League. According to Puro Beisbol, the Mexicali Aguiluchos (or Eaglets) have signed working agreements with the Mexican League Reynosa Broncos and Laguna Vaqueros, but will also be drawing from the parent Aguilas’ 60-man Mexican Pacific League winter roster for players. The Aguiluchos will play their home games at Casas GEO, the Aguilas’ winter home and site of the 2009 Caribbean Series.

“In accepting participation in the Liga Norte,” said Aguiluchos director Jose Luis Rodriguez, “we saw the chance to have better proximity to our prospects. It’s a privilege to have baseball in any of its concepts, and we want to continue building it.”

The Mexican Northern League season will get underway March 28 with six teams, including the Ensenada Marineros, Magdalena Membrilleros, Puerto Penasco Tiburones, San Luis Algodoneros, Tijuana Truenos and now the Mexicali Aguiluchos. Ensenada, Tijuana and Mexicali will represent the state of Baja California while Magdalena, Puerto Penasco and San Luis will represent Sonora. An All-Star Game between teams from the two states is slated for May 13 in Tijuana. The regular season will conclude June 28, with the playoffs to follow.

The Mexican Northern League has been in existence for several decades as a developmental league for the LMB. Mexicali and Magdalena joined the LNM for 2012 after Caborca, Agua Prieta, Empalme and Guaymas broke away in the offseason to form the new Northern Sonoran League along with new clubs in Nogales and Cananea. Caborca won the LNM title last year. The LNS will play a 60-game schedule plus playoffs beginning April 17.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

OTANEZ MOVES AGAIN, THIS TIME TO TABASCO

There are two things that can be considered set in stone when it comes to Mexican baseball: First, Willis Otanez is a threat at the plate no matter who he plays for. Second, Willis Otanez is likely to play for just about anyone from year to year. This time around, the veteran slugger is moving from Reynosa to Tabasco.

Otanez has spent ten of the past eleven summers playing in the Mexican League, and it’s hard to dispute the numbers he’s put up: He’s batted .341 with 154 homers and 671 RBIs, posting stats of .341/22/82 for Reynosa in 2011. Clearly stated, the former Major Leaguer can swing a bat. The question always seems to be where he’ll be swinging it.

Otanez had already been picked up from the Broncos by the expansion Carmen Dolphins in the offseason, then was dealt to the Olmecas along with young pitcher Angel Araiza in exchange for hurlers Salvador Arellano and Roman Rivas. Both Carmen and Aguascalientes will be joining the Liga this year to bring the field to 16 teams.

Since coming to Mexico in 2001, Otanez has played for (taking a deep breath here) Monterrey, Cancun, Monclova, Veracruz, Minatitlan, Puebla, Reynosa and now Tabasco. For most of the past few years, Otanez has left Mexico at the end of the season in August to play in the independent Atlantic League for Bridgeport, Newark, Long Island and Camden.

Over his 20-year minor league career, the 38-year-old Dominican has 2,444 hits for an even .300 average with 346 homers and 1,459 RBIs. He spent parts of the 1998 and 1999 seasons in the American League with Baltimore and Toronto, hitting .236 with 7 homers in 74 games.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

NOTAS DEL CARIBE: Looking back at the 2012 Caribbean Series

With the 2012 Caribbean Series now in the taillights, I thought I’d put some random thoughts and notes together about the past week in Santo Domingo…

*The CS All-Star Team was announced, with one selection from the Mexican Pacific League champion Obregon Yaquis, who lost their final three games to finish last with a 2-4 record after winning the Serie del Caribe last winter. The lone Yaqui to make the All-Star squad was catcher Iker Franco, who led Obregon with a .267 average. Franco was omitted in an earlier announcement of CS All-Stars by the host Liga Dominicana.
For the record, here are the 2012 CS All-Stars: 1B-Hector Jimenez, Aragua (VZ), 2B-Pablo Ozuna, Escogido (DR), 3B-Luis Figueroa, Mayaguez (PR), SS-Miguel Rojas, Aragua (VZ), OFs-Andy Dirks, Escogido (DR), Adonis Garcia, Aragua (VZ), and Jesus Feliciano, Mayaguez (PR), C-Iker Franco, Obregon (MX), DH-Luis Jimenez, Aragua (VZ), LHSP-Raul Valdez, Escogido (DR), RHSP-Nelson Figueroa, Mayaguez (PR), RP-Jairo Asencio, Escogido (DR) and MGR-Ken Oberkfell, Escogido (PR).
Asencio, a Braves farmhand, was named the MVP after tossing three innings in three games, saving all three for the Leones while allowing no baserunners.

*Attendance at the CS left much to be desired. The Dominican League website, hardly the place to go for dispassionate discourse on an event they were hosting, pointed out that the 11,400-seat Estadio Quisquaya was never sold out, with about 8,000 fans showing up for a game between LiDom champion Escogido and Puerto Rican League representative Mayaguez on the third day. Unofficial estimates are that about 6,000 per day turned out for the six doubleheaders, although organizers never did release official attendance figures.
Perhaps one reason for the low turnout was ticket prices, which ranged from US$5 per day for the nosebleed seats overlooking left and right field to $70 per day for corporate boxes (it was $40 per day to sit behind home plate), with no breaks for people buying six-day passes. That may not seem like much for Americans in a nation with a per capita income of $48,100, but with a PCI of $9,300 in Dominica, tickets can start adding up, especially when there were so few of those $5 seats available. Hopefully, organizers for next year’s CS at the new ballpark in Hermosillo will take note and not price Mexican fans out.

*Speaking of future Caribbean Series, a delegation from the Caribbean Baseball Confederation will be heading to Havana in March (hats in hand, no doubt) to make another attempt to convince Cuban baseball authorities to rejoin the CS. Cuba was one of the original four nations in the CS between 1949 and 1960 until Fidel Castro took power and pulled out of the Serie, effectively killing the event for eleven winters until it was reorganized in 1970 by replacing Cuba and Panama with Mexico and Venezuela.
Two problems for the CS, however: The Serie runs while the Cuban National Series regular season still has more than two months to go. Who would they send? The previous winter’s champion? An All-Star Team? How badly will Cuban baseball want to stretch their regular season another week?
The second problem is that the CS needs Cuba more than Cuba needs the CS, especially since there would be concerns regarding possible defections among Cuban players outside the country.

*There are three nations that have applied for admission to the Serie del Caribe, but Confederation president Juan Francisco Puella rejected them outright, addressing financial difficulties among leagues in Colombia, Nicaragua and Panama by saying, “In regards to those leagues, if you can’t take care of your own house, you can’t take on another.” Puella apparently has a short memory, since the Puerto Rican League suspended operations in 2007-08 because of attendance and money problems. They were welcomed back with open arms one year later.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

YAQUIS BOPPED BY ARAGUA, 6-2, TO FINISH CS SCHEDULE

Cesar Suarez went 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs while Pedro Guerra and five other relievers combined to hold Obregon to one hit over the final six innings as the Aragua Tigres downed the Yaquis, 6-2, Tuesday to finish the Caribbean Series for both sides.

After both teams swapped goose eggs over the first two innings, the Yaquis posted two runs in the top of the third against Tigres starter Seth Etherton, a former MLB pitcher who spent part of last summer with the Quintana Roo Tigres of the Mexican League. Jose Rodriguez led off the frame with a single up the middle, moved to second on a Jesus Lopez sacrifice bunt and scored on a Chris Roberson single off Etherton’s glove. Roberson went from first to third on Sergio Contreras’ double and later came in to score on an Iker Franco sacrifice fly. At that point, Etherton was replaced on the hill by Tyson Brummett, who got Oscar Robles to fly out to end the inning for the Mexican Pacific League champions.

Aragua tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth when Suarez bashed a leadoff homer over the left field wall off Obregon starter Marco Carrillo. Adonis Garcia then doubled, moved to third on a Luis Anotnio Jimenez single and scored on a Hector Giminez single.

The dam really burst open in the fifth after Oswaldo Martinez came out to relieve Carrillo on the mound for the Yaquis. Aragua went on to knock Martinez around for four runs on four hits and two walks in just two-thirds of an inning before he was yanked in favor of Cesar Carrillo. The first batter to face Carrillo was pinch-hitter Edgardo Alfonzo, who lifted a single to right to score both Miguel Rojas and Suarez to bring the score to 6-2. From that point on, Carrillo and four more Obregon relievers would let up just one hit the rest of the way (although Alan Guerrero struggled, issuing three walks on top of that single in 1.1 innings), but the fatal damage had already been done and the Mexican bats were being silenced by the Tigres relief corps.

Obregon ended the contest with just four hits, two of them singles by Roberson, while Aragua posted eleven safeties for the game. The Yaquis ended the CS with a 2-4 record after losing their final three games. Aragua, the Venezuelan champions, finished with a 3-3 record. The host Escogido Leones fell to Puerto Rican champs Mayaguez, 3-1, in the CS finale, but the Domincans had already clinched the title and came in at 4-2. The Indios brought their record to 3-3, pushing Obregon back to last place for the tournament after the Yaquis had finished the first go-round of the double round-robin format holding second place at 2-1 and only trailed Escogido by a single game.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

OBREGON LOSES TO MAYAGUEZ, 4-3, ON WALKOFF SINGLE

Luis Figueroa singled off a full-count pitch from Obregon closer Luis Ayala (pictured) to score Johnny Monell with the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving Puerto Rican kingpin Mayaguez a 4-3 win over the Mexican Pacific League titlist Yaquis Monday afternoon at the Caribbean Series in Santo Domingo. With the loss the Yaquis were officially eliminated from their quest for a second straight CS title by falling to a 2-3 record after five games with one to go, two games behind Dominican champion Escogido, who dropped to 4-1 after suffering their first loss in the nightcap, 7-0, to Aragua of Venezuela.

The Yaquis took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Karim Garcia singled in Chris Roberson, then stretched it to 3-0 in the third when Garcia tripled in Alfredo Amezaga before coming in on a Barbaro Canizares sacrifice fly. The Indios struck back with two of their own in the bottom of the third on Figueroa’s two-run single, then knotted the contest up at 3-3 in the eighth when Jesus Feliciano scored on Jorge Padilla’s bases-loaded groundout to Amezaga at shortstop.

Obregon’s offense once again sputtered its way to an eight-hit day, as Garcia singled, tripled, walked twice to drive in two runs while scoring once in four trips to the plate. The Yaquis pitching generally held up well as starter Miguel Gonzalez went five innings and gave up two runs while Dan Serafini allowed one hit and an unearned run in two frames. However, Ayala (who’s been sharp throughout the postseason) ran into some trouble in his 1.1 innings, walking four and throwing just 16 strikes in 37 pitches. And did we mention Figueroa’s game-winning single?

The Yaquis will wrap up their Caribbean Series schedule against Aragua on Tuesday afternoon at 3PM local time.

Monday, February 6, 2012

YAQUIS BLANKED 2-0 BY LIRIANO, DOMINICANS

Francisco Liriano outdueled Edgar Gonzalez (pictured) as the Escogido Leones scored runs on infield groundouts in the first and ninth innings to defeat the Obregon Yaquis, 2-0, Sunday night to clinch at least a share of the 2012 Caribbean Series title for the Dominican champions. With two games left to play, Escogido has a perfect 4-0 record, including a pair of wins over the Mexican Pacific League champions, who are 2-2.

Escogido scored their first run when Jose Constanza opened the game with a walk, stole second base, moved to third on a fielding error of a Pablo Ozuna grounder by Yaquis first sacker Barbaro Canizares and came in to score on an Andy Dirks groundout to Obregon shortstop Alfredo Amezaga.

That 1-0 lead was all Liriano and the Leones would need in this one. Liriano, who has fought injuries and inconsistency the past four summers for the Minnesota Twins after going 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA in his 2006 rookie season, tossed five shutout innings for the Leones to eventually collect the win. The 28-year-old lefty allowed four hits and as many walks, but the Yaquis couldn’t bunch enough of them together to push a run across the plate.

Escogido tacked on an insurance run in the ninth when pinch-runner Freddy Guzman replaced Mauro Gomez after Mario Mendoza Jr. walked Gomez to begin the inning, then stole second, moved to third on Erick Almonte’s groundout to Canizales at first and scored on Fernando Tatis’ tapper to Yaquis third baseman Agustin Murillo (who had to throw to first to retire Tatis because he couldn’t make a play on Guzman). Jairo Asencio retired Obregon in order on six pitches in the bottom of the ninth for his third CS save.

For his part, Gonzalez had a strong outing for the Yaquis as the Colorado Rockies hurler let up just two singles in six innings. Five relievers combines to allow just two hits and one run over the final three frames, but Obregon’s anemic offense could gather only five base hits themselves while batting 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Doug Clark had two singles for the Yaquis while Canizales, Chris Roberson and Karim Garcia each singled once, but it just wasn’t Obregon’s night at the plate. As a team, the Yaquis lead the pitching-dominated CS with a .266 batting average, but the breaks weren’t there Sunday.

Obregon has two games to play in Santo Domingo: Monday at 3PM local time against Puerto Rico’s Mayaguez (1-3) Indios, and Tuesday at 3PM versus Venezuela’s Aragua (1-3) Tigres.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

VALENCIA DOUBLE PACES OBREGON WIN OVER ARAGUA

Carlos Valencia (pictured) sliced a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning to put Obregon ahead to stay as the Yaquis scored a 4-2 comeback win over Venezuela’s Aragua Tigres Saturday in the 2012 Caribbean Series. The win gives Obregon a 2-1 record after three games in the double round-robin tournament at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The Tigres took an early 1-0 lead when Cesar Suarez laid down a two-out bunt single in the top of the first inning that Yaquis pitcher Rolando Valdez threw past first baseman Sergio Contreras, allowing Suarez to advance to second. Adonis Garcia followed up with a single to center field on which Suarez was able to come around to score the game’s first run.

The two teams then swapped zeros until Obregon tied the game in the bottom of the fifth when Iker Franco lined a two-out double to left and then scored on a Contreras single. Aragua pulled into a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth when Guillermo Rodriguez came in from third on a Suarez grounder to third sacker Agustin Murillo, who threw to second to force Miguel Rojas.

In the pivotal bottom of the sixth, Chris Roberson led off with a bunt single for the Yaquis and moved to second on a bad throw by Aragua first baseman Hector Jimenez. Alfredo Amezaga then put down a sacrifice bunt that drew an error on the throw by Tigres pitcher Brian Sweeney, allowing Amezaga to arrive safely at first with Roberson advancing to third. Roberson then scored on Karim Garcia’s ground out while Amezaga scooted to second. Then, a Barbaro Canizares grounder to third baseman Luis Maza drew Aragua’s third throwing error of the inning, putting Canizares safe on first. Doug Clark then drew a walk from Sweeney, who was replaced on the mound by Pedro Rodriguez with the bases loaded.

The first batter Rodriguez faced was Valencia, who drilled a 2-0 to left for a double, scoring Amezaga and Canizares with the go-ahead runs. It was then left to Valdez and three relievers to shut out Aragua the rest of the way to seal the deal for the Yaquis.

After allowing that first inning tally, Valdez settled down to end up with seven strong innings for the win, allowing two unearned runs, striking out five Tigres hitters and walking none. Luis Ayala struggled through the ninth, allowing two late singles, but settled down to hold Aragua scoreless for his second save of the CS. The Yaquis collected seven hits for the game, including two safeties for Franco, but this was a game that hinged largely on the combined five errors among the two combatants, each of which led to a run being scored.

Obregon next takes on Dominican champion Escogido, who come into Sunday night’s game unbeaten at 3-0, meaning a Yaquis victory would create a tie at the top of the CS standings. Aragua takes an 0-3 mark into their afternoon contest against 1-2 Puerto Rican titlists Mayaguez.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

KEISLER, YAQUIS SHUT OUT MAYAGUEZ, 2-0; OBREGON NOW 1-1 IN CS

Randy Keisler (pictured) combined with relievers Dan Serafini and Luis Ayala on a four-hitter as the Obregon Yaquis shut out Puerto Rico’s Mayaguez Indios, 2-0, Friday afternoon in Santo Domingo to even their Caribbean Series record at 1-1. The Yaquis fell to Dominican hosts Escogido, 2-1, in Thursday’s CS opener for both teams.

Keisler cruised through seven innings of work for Obregon, allowing just an Irving Falu double plus three singles and a walk while striking out five Indios batsmen. Serafini came on in the top of the eighth and walked Jesus Feliciano and struck out Ruben Gotay on four pitches before giving way to Ayala, who retired all five batters he faced, throwing 14 strikes in 17 pitches to earn the save.

Obregon scored the only two runs they’d need in the bottom of the fourth when Barbaro Canizares drew a one-out walk off Mayaguez starter Johnny Monell, who then threw the ball into right field on a pickoff attempt to allow Canizares to scoot all the way from first to third base. Doug Clark drew a walk from Monell before Jose Rodriguez lifted a sacrifice fly into center field to score Canizares. With Iker Franco at the plate, Clark stole second. Franco proceeded to stroke a single to center to plate Clark with what ended up being an insurance run. Franco, Lopez and Sergio Contreras each had base hits for the Yaquis while Karim Garcia collected two.

The Obregon win came the day after Thursday’s disappointing 2-1 loss to the Dominican champs. The Yaquis drew first blood in the top of the second when Canizares hit a leadoff single, moved to third on Doug Clark’s bunt single that drew a throwing error by Escogido third baseman Fernando Tatis, and then came in to score on a wild pitch by Leones starter Kris Johnson.

The Dominicans came back with a run in the bottom of the second when Wilkin Castillo and Tatis singled off Obregon starter Luis Mendoza to start the frame. Julio Borbon moved both baserunners up 90 feet on a sacrifice bunt, then Castillo tied the contest by scoring from third on Pedro Florimon’s groundout to second.

In the fateful third entrada, Mendoza loaded the sacks to start the inning by letting up singles to Pablo Ozuna and Andy Dirks and walking Mauro Gomez. After a coaching visit to the mound, Mendoza got Julio Lugo to hit into a 6-4-3 double play, but Ozuna was able to score from third on the play to give Escogido a 2-1 lead they were never to relinquish. Obregon was only able to muster singles from Canizares, Clark and Agustin Murillo off Johnson and three relievers while Escogido spread out eight singles against Mendoza and two relievers.

In other CS contests, Venezuela’s Aragua Tigres topped Mayaguez, 3-2, on opening day while Escogido topped Aragua, 5-2, Friday night. On Saturday, Obregon takes on Aragua and Escogido meets Mayaguez to complete the first run-through of the double round robin format.

Escogido leads the standings with a 2-0 record, followed by Obregon and Aragua with 1-1 marks and Mayaguez trailing at 0-2.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 CARIBBEAN SERIES SCHEDULE

THU, Feb. 2: Venezuela @ Puerto Rico (3pm), OBREGON @ Dominican Rep. (7pm)

FRI
, Feb. 3: Puerto Rico @ OBREGON (3pm), Dominican Rep. @ Venezuela (7pm)

SAT
, Feb. 4: Venezuela @ OBREGON (3pm), Dominican Rep. @ Puerto Rico (7pm)

SUN
, Feb. 5: Puerto Rico @ Venezuela (3pm), Dominican Rep. @ OBREGON (7pm)

MON
, Feb. 6: OBREGON @ Puerto Rico (3pm), Venezuela @ Dominican Rep. (7pm)

TUE
, Feb. 7: OBREGON @ Venezuela (3pm), Puerto Rico @ Dominican Rep. (7pm)

*ALL TIMES LOCAL, ALL GAMES AT ESTADIO QUISQUEYA, SANTO DOMINGO*

Saturday, January 28, 2012

YAQUIS LOAD UP WITH 8 REINFORCEMENTS FOR SERIE CARIBE

The Obregon Yaquis have finalized their Caribbean Series roster by adding eight more players from other Mexican Pacific League team prior to flying to Santo Domingo for Thursday’s CS opener.

The defending Mex Pac and CS champions picked up three pitchers, a catcher, three infielders and an outfielder to bolster a lineup that has already been strong enough to defeat Guasave in four straight games for the LMP pennant after topping the Algodoneros in six games during the first round and Mexicali in five contests in the semifinals.

Joining manager Eddy Diaz’ Yaquis for their trip to the Dominican Republic are pitchers Dan Serafini (Los Mochis), Miguel Gonzalez (Mazatlan) and Edgar Gonzalez (Hermosillo), catcher Humberto Cota (Hermosillo), infielders Oscar Robles (Mexicali), Jose Rodriguez and Jesus Lopez (both Guasave) plus outfielder Chris Roberson (Hermosillo).

Although the others all have their bonafides as pitchers and players, the selection of Lopez is a curiosity because he batted just .246 with 2 homers and 11 RBIs in just 114 at-bats and has little to show after six years of minor league ball in Mexico and the USA. Lopez was selected over more proven shortstop entities like Flavio Romero, Rolando Acosta, Ramiro Pena or Luis Alfonso Cruz, who had an outstanding winter for Culiacan in finishing third in the Mex Pac in batting (.340) and homers (17) and RBIs (47).

The Yaquis will be greeted in Mexico City by National Sports Commission director Bernardo de la Cruz on Tuesday before flying out to Santo Domingo the next day. Obregon’s first CS game is scheduled for Thursday night at 7PM local time against the host Dominican League champion. The Escogido Leones lead the best-of-9 LiDom title series, 4 games to 3, over Cibaenas after beating the Aguilas by a 5-2 score Saturday.

Elsewhere among CS leagues, Mayaguez has won the Puerto Rican League pennant and has made their reservations for Santo Domingo, while Aragua leads LaGuaira, 3 games to 2, in the Venezuelan League’s best-of-7 championship series.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

OBREGON BLUDGEONS GUASAVE FOR FOR MEX PAC FLAG REPEAT

When the Obregon Yaquis dispatched the Guasave Algodoneros Wednesday night to wrap up the Mexican Pacific League finals in four straight games, they didn’t use a broom. A shop vacuum is more like it.

The Yaquis blasted the Cottoneers, 19-0, by pounding out 25 hits in front of a stunned crowd of 7,824 at Guasave’s Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon. Sergio Contreras had four hits and five RBIs for Obregon, Carlos Valencia’s four-hit night included a solo homer, Iker Franco and Alfredo Amezaga combined for six hits, two homers, five runs and five RBIs…you get the idea.

Obregon opened the contest with five first-inning runs off Algos starter Francisco Cordoba, including a solo homer by Amezaga and a three-run round-tripper from Franco, both to right field. The score remained at 5-0 until the Yaquis tacked on two more in the sixth on a Valencia homer and a Karim Garcia RBI single, but the real fireworks came one inning later.

In the seventh, Obregon sent 15 players to the plate and scored 11 runs as Valencia, Contreras and Amezaga each turned in two hits to bring the score to 18-0. It’s safe to say the only seventh-inning stretching last night was done by the Yaquis’ third base coach, who was probably waving more than the queen at a homecoming parade.

Not that it was needed, but the Yaquis received a standout start from Marco Carrillo, who won his second playoff game by tossing six innings of three-hit shutout ball, striking out six Algodoneros and walking one. The only Yaqui who conceivably could have been disappointed was closer Luis Ayala, whose only chance of earning a fourth consecutive save in the LMP finals would have been to pitch batting practice to the Cottoneers.

With the Mex Pac competition vanquished for a second straight year, the next conquest for the Yaquis will be the Caribbean Series, which begins Thursday, February 2 in the Dominican Republic. Joining Obregon in Santo Domingo will be Puerto Rican champion Mayaguez after the Indios topped Caguas, 5 games to 3, in that league’s title series. The Venezuelan League championships between Aragua and LaGuaira are tied at a game apiece while the Escogido Leones lead Cibaenas in the Domincan Series, 3 games to 1.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

YAQUIS WIN AGAIN, TAKE 3-0 LMP TITLE SERIES LEAD

Obregon is one win away from their second consecutive Mexican Pacific League pennant after topping the Guasave Algodoneros, 6-4, Tuesday night in Guasave to pull into a 3 games to 0 lead in the LMP finals.

Yaquis SS Alfredo Amezaga (pictured) slashed two doubles and a single and scored three runs in five trips to the plate while DH Barbaro Canizares bashed a two-run homer en route to a 4-RBI night for Obregon as the defending Caribbean Series champs chased veteran Cottoneers starter Walter Silva after five innings by scoring five runs on seven hits and a walk. For his part, Obregon opener Rolando Valdez got the win with five frames of one-run ball and five strikeouts before giving way to eight (8) relievers as closer Luis Ayala once again retired the side in order in the ninth for his third straight save in the title set and seventh of the postseason.

The contest was tied at 1-1 in the top of the third when Obregon’s Corey Wimberly led off by reaching base on a throwing error by Guasave 2B Tony Thomas. Amezaga then lined a double to Algos right fielder Mario Valenzuela, bringing Wimberly all the way around to score. The Yaquis eventually built a 6-1 lead before Guasave scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh, highlighted by a two-run Jesus Lopez off Obregon reliever Hugo Castellanos, but it was too little too late for the Algos and their sellout home crowd of 8,000 at Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon.

Guasave has one shot to stay alive in the fight for their first pennant since 1973 Wednesday night. Francisco Cordoba is scheduled to take the mound for the Algodoneros against the Yaquis’ Marco Carrillo.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ALGOS RETURN HOME WITH BACKS AGAINST WALL

It’s not as though the Guasave Algodoneros haven’t already faced adversity this season.

Midway through the 2011-12 campaign, the Algos had lost 27 of 35 games, including their last 16 contests to close out the first half of the schedule. Guasave finished eight games behind seventh-place Hermosillo for just 3 points, and fans had to be wondering what new manager Enrique "Che" Reyes was going to do after taking over from Matias Carrillo at that point, espcially since Reyes himself had been dispatched by Los Mochis. So what did happen in the second half?

In perhaps the most amazing in-season turnaround in Mex Pac history, Reyes guided the Algodoneros to a 21-12 record while winning the second half title by a game over Hermosillo. Yes, the Algos finished with an underwhelming 29-39 mark with a low-scoring offense and the worst pitching in the circuit, but if nothing else, this team showed they won’t quit.

However, this time around, Guasave doesn’t have 35 games to right the ship. After dropping the first two games of the LMP championship series in Obregon, the Algodoneros are home for up to three games, and they can’t win just one of them. 1B Japhet Amador (.327/5/11) and 2B Jose Rodriguez (.314/4/12) have hit well in the postseason, but OFs Brad Snyder (.127) and Leo Heras (.125) have just 12 hits between them in 14 playoff games while IFs Tony Thomas (.216) and Daryle Ward (.227) have struggled. And the Algos’ pitching staff has GOT to do better than show a 5.04 ERA as they have thus far.

Che Reyes has already proven he can pull a rabbit out of a hat this season, but he’s going to have to do it again soon against an Obregon team gunning for its second consecutive flag and a shot at repeating as Caribbean Series champions. Game Three is Tuesday night in Guasave’s Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon with Game Four set for Wednesday night.

A little magic show, anyone?

Monday, January 23, 2012

MURILLO BLASTS CLUTCH HOMER AS OBREGON TAKES 2-0 SERIES LEAD

One night after stroking a single to keep a game-winning rally going in Obregon’s 3-2 win over Guasave in Game One of the Mexican Pacific League championship series, Agustin Murillo swatted a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday night to lead the Yaquis past the Algodoneros in a 6-5 thriller Sunday before another sellout crowd of 13,984 at Obregon’s Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan.

The Algodoneros had built a 5-1 lead after Jose Rodriguez sliced a two-run single in the third and run-plating singles by Jesus Lopez and Jose Felix in the sixth. Obregon got two back in the sixth by scoring on a groundout by Doug Clark and a Carlos Valencia single, then came to within a run in the seventh on Barbaro Canizares’ RBI groundout.

Valencia was standing on first with two out when Murillo strode to the plate in the eighth and blasted a homer over the centerfield wall off Cottoneers closer Alan Guerrero to give the Yaquis their first lead since the top of the third. Luis Ayala then came out of the bullpen to replace Rafael Rodriguez on the mound in the top of the ninth and retired Guasave 1-2-3 on seven pitches for his sixth playoff save this winter (and second in both title series tilts).

Valencia went 3-for-4 for the Yaquis while Saturday hero Karim Garcia had two doubles as Obregon outhit the Algodoneros by an 8-to-4 margin. Yaquis starter Randy Keisler gave up just two hits in five innings, but struggled with five walks to the 22 batters he faced and ended up allowing four runs before Hugo Castellano replaced him in the sixth. Rodriguez benefitted from Murillo’s homer with the win despite only facing two batsmen. Guerrero took the loss with his second blown save of the postseason on a clear 75-degree Obregon night.

The two sides will travel to Guasave for Game Three on Tuesday night. Obregon now has a 2-0 series lead.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

YAQUIS OPEN MEX PAC FINALS WITH 3-2 WIN OVER GUASAVE

The defending Caribbean Series champion Obregon Yaquis continued their march toward a second straight CS crown with a 3-2 win over the Guasave Algodoneros in the opening game of the Mexican Pacific League title series Saturday night in front of 13,976 fans at a jam-packed Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan.

Karim Garcia (pictured) crashed a two-out solo homer to center field off Cottoneers starter James Avery in the bottom of the first to draw first blood in the series, and a leadoff solo blast by Sergio Contreras off Avery in the third gave the Yaquis a 2-0 lead. Guasave fought back in the top of the fourth when Daryle Ward singled up the middle off Obregon opener Luis Mendoza to bring in Leo Heras from third and make it a one-run contest. After two scoreless innings, Algodoneros slugger Japhet Amador bashed a Mendoza delivery for a solo bomb over the center field wall to knot the game up at 2-2.

The Yaquis got the one more run they’d eventually need for the win in the bottom of the seventh. Adrian C. Ramirez, who pitched for the Yaquis in the CS last year, came on in relief for Guasave and gave up a leadoff single to Carlos Valencia. After inducing Conteras to bunt a pop-up to Cottoneers catcher Jose Felix, Ramirez let up an Agustin Murillo single before giving way to Mauricio Lara. Lara got Corey Wimberley to fly out to right to make it two gone, but then he walked Alfredo Amezaga, bringing up Garcia with the bases loaded.

Karim, who’s only been hitting .182 in the postseason for the Yaquis, watched one strike and swung for another to dig himself an 0-2 hole in the count, but Lara then threw four straight balls to walk Valencia in from third for the game-winner.

Mendoza got the win for Obregon after tossing seven innings of two-run ball while Luis Ayala earned his fifth playoff save with 1.1 frames of scoreless pitching. Ramirez absorbed the loss for Guasave.

The two teams play again Sunday night before the series shifts to Guasave for Game Three Tuesday.