Friday, August 4, 2017

LNM Finals: 10th inning doubles give Ensenada Game 7 win

Back-to-back doubles by Alberto Querales and Edgar Duran with one out in the bottom of the tenth inning gave the Ensenada Marineros a 3-2 win over the San Luis Algodoneros Wednesday night in Game 7 of the North Mexican League championship series, ending the season with the LNM flag going to the Pacific coast city for the first time since 2012.

The Marineros drew first blood in the bottom of the third when Orlando Pina lofted a leadoff homer against Cottoneers starter Daniel Bloch, one of two hits Bloch would allow in three-and-two-thirds innings of work.  Ensenada took a 2-1 lead three innings later when Querales led off the sixth with his first double of the night, moved to third via a Duran sacrifice and scored on a single from 37-year-old Barbaro Canizares.  Canizares is a former Cuban National Series star who had a cup of coffee with Atlanta in 2009 and led the Mexican League with a .396 average in 2011 for Oaxaca before setting a Mexican Pacific League record with 20 homers in 2011-12 for Obregon (who won three consecutive LMP titles while Canizares played there).

Ensenada's two-run advantage was quickly erased in the top of the seventh when, with two out, Juan Carlos Torres singled and Jackson Valera crashed a two-run homer for San Luis against Marineros starter Arturo Florentino, who'd been working on a no-hitter until Torres broke his spell.  The 2-2 tie carried into extra innings.  Lazaro Leal's two-out double in the top of the frame put the go-ahead run on second for the Algodoneros, only to see the threat die when Jesus Caporal's fly ball was caught for the third out.  After Roman Sesteaga grounded out to open the bottom of the tenth for Ensenada, Querales doubled off veteran hurler Francisco Cordoba, a San Luis native who spent 12 seasons in the LMB (mostly with Quintana Roo) and compiled a 63-63 Liga career record.  Cordoba then served up a walkoff double to Duran that plated Querales with the pennant-winning run.

It was a fitting way to close the season for Ensenada, a team that won both halves of the Liga Norte schedule to finish the regular season with a 52-31 overall record before sweeping Puerto Penasco in the first round of the LNM playoffs.  Duran had an MVP-worthy season for the Marineros, leading the circuit in both runs scored (81) and RBIs (77) while finishing second in homers (16) and sixth in batting (.334).  For his part, Querales gave Ensenada another solid bat in the order by finishing fourth in batting (.339) and third in RBIs (67) while Canizares hit .369 with ten homers (tied for sixth) in just 44 games as the Marineros hit .296 as a team while scoring 6.3 runs per game.

Puerto Penasco infielder Jermy Acey, a longtime veteran of independent leagues north of the border, led the LNM with a .358 average while Marcos Vecionacci of San Quintin edged Duran for the home run crown with 17 longballs.  Caborca's Carlos Colmenares and Randy Reyes of Puerto Penasco tied for the lead in stolen bases with 22 swipes each, with Colmenares caught stealing twice while Reyes was gunned down eleven times.

Elian Leyva of Puerto Penasco turned in an 11-3 record to lead the Liga Norte in wins while Ensenada's Wanel Vasquez (who was rocked by San Luis in Tuesday's Game 6) came in second with 10 triumphs.  Leyva also had a league-best 1.18 WHIP.  Vasquez topped the loop with 92 strikeouts in 96 innings, but he also gave up 43 walks and unfurled 14 wild pitches en route to a 3.66 ERA.  Marineros starter Alexis Lara also had a standout season on the mound, going 9-2 and leading the LNM with a 2.96 ERA.  Ensenada closer Rafael Cova, who did not pitch in Wednesday's Game 7, was easily tops in saves with 20.

Each of the North Mexican League's six teams receive the majority of their players from two Mexican League teams.  The Marineros, managed by former LMB star Victor Bojorquez, are affiliated with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos (Bojorquez' former team) and Oaxaca Guerreros, both owned by billionaire Alfredo Harp Helu. Another Diablos-Guerreros affiliate clinched the Academy AA League pennant in late July but the parent clubs are in danger of missing the Liga postseason.