2019 35+ National

Vaqueros de Puerto Rico 12, Towson Titans, 0

By Nick Shulman, special to MSBL

‘Two teams, speaking different languages, from 1,500 miles apart, coming together to unleash their inner child and play a fun game.’

Vaqueros de Puerto Rico made the three-hour flight from San Juan to West Palm Beach with a mission to win a championship, and their goal came to fruition on Saturday as they controlled every phase of the game against the Towson Titans in the 35+ National Championship game.

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for baseball on Saturday morning, with temperatures around 70 degrees, sunny skies, and a light breeze blowing out to right field. Vaqueros brought plenty of fans with them from Puerto Rico, who vocally supported their team throughout the game. Vaqueros de Puerto Rico rolled out their ace, Carlos Gil, as their starting pitcher, and he was dominant from the start. Gil wound up going the distance in a complete-game shutout, and did a superb job at keeping the Towson hitters off-balance, changing speeds and utilizing several different pitches. He looked very comfortable throughout the entire game and never showed any indication of distress. It was abundantly clear he had done this before.

Vaqueros’ offense got off to a hot start and provided Gil with some early insurance, as they got off to a 5-0 lead through two innings with balanced contributions from the entire lineup. Innings three, four, and five were mostly uneventful as the Towson starting pitcher stifled Vaqueros’ offensive temporarily, but Towson’s bats weren’t able to close the gap that Vaqueros created early on. Any time a Titan got on base, Gil was resilient and battled his way through each minor jam he was in. The game was essentially decided in a sixth inning rally when Vaqueros put up six runs, with six different players collecting RBI’s in a small-ball approach. Towson relief pitcher, Eric Price, was on the receiving end of the rally. All runs came via singles, walks, and sacrifice flies. Omarcito, Cava, Juan Medina, Jean Felix, Goldo and Carlos Rodríguez all contributed for Vaqueros de Puerto RIco.

During the rally, you could tell the wind was taken out of Towson’s sails, as they seemed to know they didn’t have enough offensive firepower to overcome Gil’s pitching prowess and the massive run deficit. After the sixth inning onslaught, Vaqueros de Puerto Rico opened up their roster and made substitutions, allowing their bench players to get some of the limelight.  Leo el Atico and Jean Peres were clearly fan favorites, garnering the loudest cheers of the game during their plate appearances.

Towson opted to keep Price in for the remainder of the game, and he pitched well after the pivotal sixth inning rally. The twelfth and final run for Vaqueros de Puerto Rico came as a result of two Towson errors in the bottom of the eighth inning. A short hop through the legs of the first baseman and a throwing error allowed a run to score, giving Gil even more unnecessary insurance before closing the game in the top of the ninth.

The Towson Titans showed great sportsmanship after the game, with each player genuinely offering their congratulations to the winners. While the defeat was tough to stomach, they showed why baseball is such a beautiful game, full of life lessons going far beyond the win and loss column.

A Puerto Rico fan by the name of Maria said that she and her husband made the trip from Bronx, New York to watch their son play and mentioned that baseball is such a staple in Puerto Rican culture. “It’s a game that the guys get into when they are kids, and they clearly never grew out of it,” said a very tongue-in-cheek Maria, gesturing to a group of guys joking around.

Vaqueros de Puerto Rico dominated the stat sheet and got their trophy, but at the end of the day, everybody won.