Find a League In Your Area
By Chris Errington, MSBL On-Line
CLEARWATER, FL., April 16, 2012 – It may have been a mid-afternoon Monday and there weren't more than a handful of family and friends in attendance, but that made no difference to Paul Guelmes. As far as he was concerned, it was his team's sweetest victory.
Tournament MVP Rolondo Viera tossed a six hitter and the Marlins took advantage of four costly, first-inning errors to roll to a 9-3 victory over a depleted Shockers team at the MSBL's 2012 Grapefruit Classic in Clearwater, Fl.
"This was a long-time coming,” Guelmes said. "We've been playing together for a while and we had to replace a lot of guys, but to finally get that first title is fantastic.”
While it took a while for Miami-Dade to get its first championship, the game's outcome was decided in the first inning.
After an initial out, nine consecutive Marlins reached base on five hits and four infield errors. Javier Rodriguez singled, Alberto Segura doubled, Viera singled, Ulrichel Pena singled, Anthony Suarez reached on an error, Guelmes singled and three more errors followed to give Miami-Dade an insurmountable 8-0 lead.
We definitely took advantage of them in the first inning,” Guelmes said. "We went up there hitting and [Tampa Bay] made some mistakes they normally don't make. It definitely helped us, but we still played a great game against a team that you can't afford to give extra outs to.”
For Tampa Bay manager Kevin Bechtel, the loss, and even the way it occurred, wasn't that much of a surprise. "With the tournament ending on a Monday instead of a Sunday, I told [tournament director] Gary [D'Ambrisi] that ‘If we make it to the championship game, I'm not sure we're going to be able to field a team,' ” Bechtel said of a group that was missing five starters due to work conflicts. "It's not frustrating though. We're just a group of guys who like to play every week together. As long as the weather is good, we'll be out here.
Viera, however, was the real story. Remembered by many for unsuccessfully suing Major League Baseball to challenge its draft procedures for Cuban players, the lefthander was almost unhittable. He struck out seven in the first five innings, allowed single runs in the third, sixth and eighth and, other than when facing Brian Villanova, was in complete control.
In addition to his sterling pitching performance, Viera finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored for a Marlins team that completed round-robin play 2-1, then defeated the Long Island Rays 8-2 in a playoff game. Pena added a pair of hits in four at-bats with a run scored and an RBI, while Guelmes added two hits, drove in a run and scored during the big first inning.
Villanova was one of the few bright spots for Tampa Bay, going 3-for-3 with a double and three runs scored, while Bechtel added two hits and drove in two runs.
For Miami-Dade and Guelmes, no amount of Shockers' hits mattered when it was over. All were more interested in celebrating a title that eluded them due to rain last year and which they fell a game shy of at the Disney and Fall Classics.
"We did what we had to do,” Guelmes said. "We hit well, pitched well and played excellent defense – all the things you need to win a title.”
MIAMI-DADE MARLINS 9, TAMPA BAY SHOCKERS 3