2016 50+ National

Puerto Rico Orioles 17, Chicago-Brooklyn Royals 0

‘Chiqui, Gonzalez and Torres Combine for Shut-out’

By Chris Errington, special to MSBL National

November 12, 2016, Bright House Field, Clearwater, FL – With a veteran team that’s won the past five tournament championships in Ft. Myers, FL, the Puerto Rico Orioles entered their first Fall Classic with a simple game plan: Score first, score often and put the game away early. Puerto Rico did just that, scoring seven times on eight hits in the first inning and cruising to a 17-0 victory over the Chicago-Brooklyn Royals. “Our goal is always to score first,” Puerto Rico manager Raul Nieves said. “When you do that, you give yourself a chance to win every game. We were expecting a close game in the championship. We never thought it would be like this.”

Against a Chicago-Brooklyn team that’s no stranger to the Fall Classic, but playing for the first time in the 50-Over division, the Orioles left little suspense. Jose Ponce’s leadoff walk from Royals starter Paul Crump was followed by three consecutive singles, the last two producing runs by Efrain Nieves and Jose Vincent. Then, following a fly out, singles from Abel Vizcarrondo, Jose Rivera and Juan Pinol plated three more runs. When Felix Soto stroked a two-run single to right-center, the score reached 7-0 and the issue was settled. “They’re a very good team and they hit the ball well,” Chicago-Brooklyn manager Kal Tate said, “but we just ran out of pitching. We just didn’t have anybody left to throw at them and they took advantage.”

Puerto Rico tacked on single runs in the second and fourth, five more in the fifth, another in the sixth and two more in the seventh to complete the blowout victory. Vizcarrondo led the way with three hits, including a double, RBI and two runs scored, while Efrain Nieves had three hits, an RBI and run scored. Soto added a pair of two-run singles, while Vincent and Ponce each had a pair of hits and combined for three RBI and a run scored. In all, Puerto Rico finished with 21 hits to defeat Chicago-Brooklyn for the second time in the tournament, the other being a 16-6 win during round-robin play. In its final two games, Puerto Rico, which finished round-robin play a modest 3-2, dispatched its opponents by a combined 33-1.

“This is the best hitting team I’ve seen so far,” Nieves said. “It gets a lot easier to win when you hit the ball like they did today.”

The recipient of the offensive explosion was Puerto Rico starter Israel Chiqui. The right hander had little trouble with a Royals lineup missing a few key players, allowing only three hits during his six innings of work. Erick Gonzalez and Eduardo Torres combined to finish the five-hitter by pitching three scoreless innings in relief. “He’s one of our guys,” Nieves said of Chiqui. “He was out there the first game and he was out there the last game. That’s how important he is to us.” While Chiqui was nearly unhittable, Angel Fonseca was even better. Fonseca tossed 15 innings without allowing an earned run during the tournament, including a 16-1 blasting of the Southern Maryland Titans in the semifinals, to earn team MVP honors.

Chicago-Brooklyn reached the title game after finishing round-robin play 2-3. The Royals then knocked off unbeaten Fedlock in the quarterfinals, before dispatching Jimski’s Brewers 12-7 in the semis.

Despite the loss, Tate remained steadfast in his conviction that, with all of his players at his disposal, the team will play better in future tournaments. “This is a pretty competitive division and we know with the right guys, we can compete,” the manager said. “We’ve been wanting Puerto Rico to play here for some time and now that we know they are here, we can play them next time with the real Royals.”

Royals                         000      000      000 –  0  5  2

Orioles                        710      151      20x – 17 21 2

WP: Chiqui. LP: Crump. 2B: Velasquez (C-B); Ramos (PR). 3B: Vizcarrondo, Soto (PR). Pitching: Crump, Tate (1), Fitzgerald (5), Mora (7) and Landing (C-B); Chiqui, Gonzalez (7), Torres (7) and Martinez.