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Coral Gables Athletics 9, Florida Cardinals 7
'Espinosa and Perez Take Charge'
By Chris Errington, special to MSBL National
January 19, 2015, Orlando, FL – After watching the Florida
Cardinals stage an unlikely comeback, David Espinosa had only one thought in
mind as he led off the top of the tenth inning: Do what he does best.
Espinosa cemented co-tournament MVP honors with his third
hit in as many at-bats, hitting a booming triple to deep center, then scored
the eventual game winner one batter later to lead Coral Gables to a thrilling 9-7
victory. The win earned the Athletics their third Disney Classic championship following
back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011 and climaxed a stellar tournament.
"I’ve always had a kind of knack for getting on base, so I
knew I had to get a pitch I could handle as the leadoff man,” Espinosa said.
"It was right there and I knew I hit it well. Being the visitors, there was a
lot of pressure on us to come right back and score again.”
Espinosa, who led the American Association of Independent
Professional Baseball League in triples this past season for the Wichita Wingnuts,
never hesitated on the bases and cruised into third standing up. Eric Perez followed with a sharp single to
right to make the score, 8-7 and Coral Gables tacked on an insurance run
following Nate Huegel’s run-scoring single to center. It was only fitting that Espinosa
and Perez were the catalysts for the Athletics’ game-winning outburst. The duo
combined to finish 6-for-8 with a pair of doubles and Espinosa’s key triple.
"[Espinosa] just had a great tournament and Eric had some
key hits as well,” Coral Gables’ manager Siby Vizoso said. "This is a group
that just kept doing its job. There were no egos. Guys knew their roles and
kept making plays.”
From there, it was just a matter of Ulpi Puente shutting the
door on one final Florida comeback bid. The lefty pitched 2-2/3 innings of
stellar relief of starter Willie Mizrahi, who’d no-hit Florida the last time he
pitched against them.
Puente initially induced a pair of fly outs with the tying
run on second in the eighth and was poised to end it in the ninth before Chris Martell’s clutch two-out, two-strike double to deep center plated Raymond Garcia with the
Martell finished 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles to help Florida,
which trailed by scores of 5-0 in the seventh and 7-2 in the eighth, send the
game to extra innings.
"Our team never quit,” said Florida manager Roberto Quiroga through an interpreter. "But this was a long tournament for us. We had to play
four [round-robin] games, while everyone else got to play three, and we ran out
of pitching. We had our chances to win it in the ninth and tenth.”
Espinosa followed with his triple on Garcia’s first pitch,
highlighting back-to-back starring roles. After finishing round-robin play 2-1,
Espinosa doubled in the bottom of the ninth inning of a playoff game against
the Tainos Marlins. He then scored the game-winning run on Ed Goscicki’s double
to send Coral Gables back to the title game.
Florida, which scored 40 runs, including a 6-0 loss to the
Athletics, finished round-robin play 3-1 and earned its ticket to the
championship with a thrilling 2-1 playoff victory over Pensacola.
Athletics 200 100 220 2 – 9 15 1
Cardinals 000 000 241 0 – 7 12 1
WP: Puente. LP: Garcia. Pitching: Mizrahi, Puente (8) and
Brogden (CG). Morales, Garcia (10), Martell (10) and Salas (F).