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Venezuela Oilers 14, UAG
'Villalta and Gonzalez Lead the Offense'
By Chris Errington, special
November 18, 2017Clearwater,
FL – Entering the 2017 Fall Classic, Alexis Villalta wasn’t scheduled to be one
of Venezuela’s starting outfielders. By the time the Oilers had convincingly
won the championship, he was their MVP.
Villalta, who got his first
playing time in the tournament’s second game, finished a stellar week with a
pair of hits and runs scored, while Jorge Gonzalez went 4-for-4 with four runs
scored and two RBI as Venezuela took advantage of uncharacteristically sloppy UAG defense to win its first title.
"We came here to be a
champion,” Venezuela manager Eleis Saba said through an interpreter. "We knew
we had a great team and practiced hard in Venezuela for this tournament. We
definitely had a lot of confidence this week.”
Villalta and Gonzalez helped
pace an offensive attack that accounted for 17 hits and scored in six of their
eight innings at bat. Luis Duque, Richard Romero and Jhonatan Jaspe, Venezuela’s
two, three and four hitters, combined for five hits, five runs scored and four
With a line-up designed to
score runs in bunches, the Oilers did exactly that in their first title game.
The offensive mindset was never more important than during the critical fourth
Venezuela appeared in
command, riding a strong start by lankly left-hander Jean Contreras and a trio
of runs in its first two at-bats to a 3-0 lead. Then, without warning, the
bottom of Tainos’ order sparked a surprising three-run uprising to tie the
game. The Oilers used a crucial David Perez sacrifice fly to retake the lead a
half-inning later, but it was a 30-minute bottom of the fourth that ultimately
decided the championship.
With one out and a man on
first, Villalta, hitting 10th, reached on an infield single. Gonzalez followed
with an RBI double down the first base line and a 5-3 lead, before a walk and
wild pitch pushed the advantage to 7-3. When Jaspe’s two-out short fly ball to
center was misplayed into a single, and a throwing error - one of five on the
day for UAG - followed, another run scored and essentially put the game away.
Not to be outdone, Andres
Luchesi added a back-breaking single to left to plate the final run of the
outburst and give Venezuela an insurmountable 9-3 lead.
"That fourth inning was
tough,” UAG manager Tommy Linda said. "The mental and physical errors were
surprising, because we’d been solid defensively all week. But give [Venezuela]
credit. They hit the ball well. "It’s a long ride home after
a loss in the eighth game.”
For Saba, Villalta and
Gonzalez sparking the five-run outburst was as expected as it was effective. "When [Villalta] got in the
line-up, he didn’t want to come out,” the manager said. "He always plays like
it’s his last game.
"[Gonzalez] was excellent. He
played well all week and is the heart of this team.”
With the newly acquired
six-run cushion, Contreras went about ensuring there would be no second Tainos comeback. Contreras was eventually replaced, but not after tossing seven
innings of six-hit ball. Still, it was during this critical stretch that he was
at his best.
The lefty used a dominant
fastball and sharp-breaking curve to keep UAG hitters off-balance much of the
day. Contreras retired 13 of the final 16 batters he faced, resulting in four
consecutive scoreless innings when Venezuela desperately needed them. "Jean had excellent command
and mixed his pitches well,” Saba said. "He did a great job for us.”
Contreras was removed to
begin the eighth and even though four consecutive runners reached and scored to
open the inning, including Ivan Reid’s two-run single to right, it wasn’t
enough to overcome the insurmountable deficit. Reid and teammate Clarence White both finished with a pair of hits on the day, while Jimmy Hampton and Alex
Ramirez combined for two hits, two runs scored and an RBI. Still, despite their
effort, for UAG, the loss was the second in three championship game appearances
during the past four years. "I’m glad with the way the
guys battled, but we put ourselves in such a hole,” Linda said. "We didn’t have
our prettiest day out there.”
For Venezuela, the victory
capped an unbeaten week as it finished 5-0 in round-robin play before defeating
the Puerto Rico Mets (5-1) and Bluecats (13-4) in the playoffs.
UAG was nearly as impressive,
going 4-1 during the round-robin portion of the tournament. The Tainos then
topped the Long Island Brewers 10-6, before reaching the title game with a
thrilling 12-10 victory over the Central Ohio Reds.
UAG 003 000 040 – 7 8 5
Venezuela 211 530 02x – 14 17 4
WP: Contreras. LP: White.
Pitching: White, Barrow (4) and Garcia (UAG). Contreras, Urdaneta (8) and Jaspe
(VEN). 2B: (V). Ramirez and Hampton (UAG). Gonzalez (VEN)