Monday, January 25, 2016

Mazatlan pulls out 10-inning win, cops MexPac pennant

Cyle Hankerd (pictured) stroked a run-scoring single in the bottom of the tenth inning Monday to give the Mazatlan Venados a 4-3 walkoff win over the Mexicali Aguilas, clinching the Mexican Pacific League championship series, 4 games to 1.  Manager Juan Jose Pacho's team will represent Mexico in next week's Caribbean Series in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

In the top of the first, Mexicali leadoff hitter Chris Roberson needed just two pitches into the game to end the Aguilas' 20-inning scoreless streak by socking an Amilcar Gaxiola offering over the left field wall, a feat repeated later in the frame by C.J. Retherford to give Mexicali an early 2-0 lead.

The Venados got one run back in the bottom of the second when Hankerd repurposed a Javier Solano pitch into a solo homer to left center; Mazatlan then scored twice in the fourth to take the lead on Paul Leon's two-out triple to center that brought in Agustin Murillo and Erick Rodriguez.

The Aguilas pulled even in the top of the sixth when Ramon Urias beat out a bunt for a single, drawing an errant throw from Mazatlan third sacker Agustin Murillo that went sailing toward the right field corner and allowed Urias to advance all the way to third.  A Luis Suarez single to left scored Urias, making it a 3-3 ballgame.  The two teams then swapped zeroes from the bottom of the sixth until the fateful tenth.

After Paul Leon and Jeremias Pineda both struck out to open the bottom of the entrada, Justin Greene got on board when Urias couldn't find the handle on his grounder to short.  Greene then stole second, leading to Aguilas reliever Manuel Chavez' intentional walk of Esteban Quiroz to set up a force at any base.  Esmailin Caridad was brought in to face Hankerd, who worked the count to 2-2 before lining a single into left field.  The speedy Greene was waved in from second to home, where he beat Welington Dotel's throw to end the game and the series.

Steven Hensley pitched the ninth and tenth for the Venados and earned the win.  Chavez took the loss for Mexicali.  Hankerd finished with two hits, as did Aguilas catcher Francisco Cordoba. Mazatlan won their ninth MexPac pennant (and their first since 2009) despite losing a first round series to Navojoa in six games.  They got the nod as the "lucky loser" wildcard team and went on to top Obregon in seven games in the semis and vanquishing Mexicali in five games for the flag.  The Aguilas had the best regular season record in the LMP and won the first game of this series until the Venados won the next four.

Mazatlan will open the Caribbean Series in Santo Domingo next Monday when they take on defending Cuban National Series champion Ciego de Avila at 7:50PM local time.

MAZATLAN 4-8-2, Mexicali 3-7-1 (10)
W-Hensley (1-0).  L-Chavez (0-1).  T-3:32.  A-15,550.