Puerto Rico Royals 5, New Jersey 40’s 3
By Chris Errington
|45+ American Division Champs, the Puerto Rico Royals|
Jupiter, Fla. – Players teared up, five players shared the MVP award and even the scorekeeper was included in the team photo.
The Puerto Rico Royals brought nearly 30 players to the 2011 Fall Classic, and countless fans, but when they’d finally capped an unbeaten week with a thrilling 5-3 victory over the New Jersey 40s, they may have been the closest team in the tournament.
“This team played together, they stuck together and they won together,” Royals coach Jose “Quito” Castrillo said. “It was hard, but it was all worth it. Guys were crying because they knew how much effort and work we put into this.”
Jorge O’Jeda pitched 8 1/3 innings of four-hit ball, striking out four, while Wilson Reyes got the final two outs, both with the bases loaded, to complete the six-hitter and win the 45 American Wood Bat Championship.
Entering as one of the division’s favorites, the Royals didn’t disappoint. A dominant 5-0 round robin effort was punctuated by the fact that Puerto Rico didn’t allow an earned run. The Royals then slipped past the Montgomery County Yankees, 7-6 in the quarterfinals and topped the Greenville Yellow Jackets, 6-0 to reach the final.
From there, it was just a matter of using the same combination of dominant pitching and timely run scoring to finally hold off a stubborn New Jersey 40s team that finished the round robin 3-2 before winning a pair of one-run playoff games, including a 2-1 victory over powerhouse Cleveland Steve Sports.
“We did what we had to do,” Castrillo said. “We got great pitching from Jorge and Wilson and got some big runs with two outs and it was enough to win.”
Early in the championship game, it looked as though Puerto Rico might fall victim to another surprising New Jersey victory. Troy Fischer’s two-out, two-run double to right-center in the first inning drove in Steve Surman and Steve Bergida for a quick 2-0 lead.
Leonor Perez’s RBI single in the bottom of the inning pulled the Royals within a run, but New Jersey starting pitcher Don DeSantis held Puerto Rico in check until the fifth.
That’s when the Royals staked their claim to the title.
Jose Delgado, who, along with Perez, finished with two hits, drove a two-out single to center to give Puerto Rico the lead for good, 3-2. Two innings later, Sammy Hernandez scored from third – again with two outs – on a wild pitch after DeSantis was forced from the game after hitting his fourth batter. Perez then singled to center for another run and what appeared to be a commanding 5-2 lead.
New Jersey had other ideas.
Heading into the ninth, the 40s loaded the bases with one out after O’Jeda was also removed for hitting his fourth batter. Reyes relieved and allowed an RBI single that travelled about 10 feet up the third base line to trim the Royals’ lead to 5-3.
Then, with the overflow Puerto Rico crowd quiet for one of the few times during the game, Reyes got a key strike out swinging on a high fastball and a fly out to right field to end the game and give Castrillo his fourth title – the others coming in 1994, 95 and 06 — in 20 years of bringing a Puerto Rican team to the Fall Classic.
“This was such a great tournament for us,” Castrillo said. “Now we know it’s only 51 more weeks until we get to come back and play here again.”