Aguilas Cibaenas : Baseball’s 2007-2008 Dominican League champions
The Aguilas Cibaenas became the first team to claim 20 Dominican League championships last night, ousting the Tigres del Licey five games to three in the best-of-nine final series. Not only did the Aguilas prevail for the ninth time in thirteen years, they also prevented Licey from reaching the 20-title milestone first. Here’s a recap of the series:
game 1 – AGUILAS 7, @ LICEY 3
Edwin Encarnacion hammered a 3-run homer in the top of the first as the Aguilas sent southpaw Randy Leek to the showers before he retired a batter. The score was 6-1 by the middle of the third inning, and the Aguilas grabbed the series opener thanks to stellar relief work from a trio of relievers that hurled five innings of 1-hit ball. Aguilas DH Miguel Tejada missed the game after losing his older brother in a tragic traffic accident.
game 2 – @ AGUILAS 18, LICEY 3
Licey’s starting pitcher (Jose Mercedes) failed to retire a single batter for the second straight game as Edwin Encarnacion blasted another 1st-inning, 3-run homer as part of an 9-run opening frame for the Aguilas. Encarnacion added a RBI-single and another 3-run shot later on, giving him 7 RBI in the game and 10 in the first two contests of the finals. Mendy Lopez and Luis Polonia also homered as part of the Aguilas’ 21-hit attack, and Licey didn’t help themselves by committing five errors.
game 3 – AGUILAS 12, @ LICEY 4
Two big innings vaulted the Aguilas to a 3-0 series lead by a combined score of 37-10. Luis Polonia knocked in the first two runs with the first of his three hits in the 2nd inning, and Rafael Furcal’s 3-run blast off Jorge Sosa capped a 6-run 5th. Meanwhile right-hander Nelson Figueroa went the distance on a 7-hitter. Furcal finished with 4 RBI, and Aguilas catcher Alberto Castillo added a 3-4, 3RBI performance from the bottom of the batting order.
game 4 – LICEY 7, @ AGUILAS 4
The Tigres in blue finally got in the win column behind eight pitchers who combined on an 8-hitter. Jose Offerman’s bases loaded walk in the first inning gave Licey as lead they wouldn’t lose, as 2-out, RBI singles by Ronnie Belliard (3rd inning) & Jose Bautista (4th) gave them some breathing room until three Aguilas errors in the 7th inning helped them build the lead to 7-0. Carlos Marmol worked the last two innings for the save after the Aguilas started fighting back.
game 5 – @ LICEY 5, AGUILAS 1
Through four innings, the game was a scoreless deadlock with Aguilas starter Bartolo Colon appearing just a little sharper than Licey’s Ervin Santana. Colon loaded the bases to start the bottom of the fifth though, and Armando Rios pulled a 2-run single to right to chase him as Licey went on to a 4-run inning. Jose Bautista took Julian Tavarez deep an inning later, and five Licey relievers preserved Santana’s victory and brought the Tigres within a game of evening the series. The Aguilas’ Luis Polonia went 4-4 in a losing effort.
game 6 – @ AGUILAS 7, LICEY 5
Midway through the game, Licey had a 4-0 lead (thanks to Jose Offerman’s 2-run single in the 1st & Willy Aybar’s 2-run homer in the 5th) with pitcher Spike Lundberg working on a 1-hit shutout. However, manager Tim Tolman pulled Lundberg one batter after Mendy Lopez led off the bottom of the 5th with a homer, and five Licey pitchers couldn’t stop the Aguilas from seizing control of the contest with a 5-run uprising an inning later. Tony Pena, Jr.’s 2-out, 2-run double proved to be the game-winning hit as the Aguilas bullpen brought them within one win of the title.
game 7 – @ LICEY 5, AGUILAS 4
Licey was on the brink of elimination when four walks, two errors and a wild pitch helped the Aguilas score three times in the 5th inning to take a 4-1 lead. Erick Aybar’s 2-run double got them back within one in the bottom of the inning though, a Matt Tupman’s (3-3, 2RBI) sacrifice fly evened the score in the following frame. The score was still tied with one-out in the bottom of the 8th, when Yordany Ramirez pulled what proved to be the game-winning hit into left field, driving in Jose Offerman with the decisive run. After the Aguilas stranded 13 baserunners in the first eight innings, Licey closer Carlos Marmol removed any doubt about the outcome by striking out the side in the 9th.
game 8 – @ AGUILAS 2 , LICEY 1
A great pitchers’ duel between Licey’s Ramon Ortiz & Nelson Figueroa of the Aguilas. Figueroa whiffed the first four batters he faced, but Licey led 1-0 at the 7th-inning stretch thanks to a 2nd-inning RBI groundout by Emilio Bonifacio followed a pair of singles and a sacrifice bunt. Licey’s defense turned double plays behind Ortiz in each of the first two frames, and the veteran right-hander did the rest in six shutout innings, facing his most serious threat when Victor Diaz led off the bottom of the 5th with a double. In the bottom of the 7th, the momentum changed though. Guillermo Mota came out of the Licey bullpen to relieve Ortiz, and surrendered a game-tying longball to the first batter he faced (Mendy Lopez). Then, with one out in the 8th, Rafael Furcal of the Aguilas blasted another home run off Licey reliever Damaso Marte to make the score 2-1. The game wasn’t over yet! After Aguilas reliever Randy Choate whiffed Willy Aybar to start the 9th, Jose Bautista & Jose Offerman connected for back-to-back singles. Right-hander Franquelis Osoria came on the retire Ronnie Belliard for the second out, then gave way to southpaw Arnie Munoz with runners at the corners. With two pinch-runners on the bases and pinch-hitter D’Angelo Jimenez at the plate, Munoz got a ground ball to third-baseman Edwin Encarnacion to seal the Aguilas 20th Dominican League championship! Great game!
44-year-old Luis Polonia batted .500 (13-26) in the 8 games
Edwin Encarnacion (10) & Rafael Furcal (9) led the Aguilas in RBI, while Chris Roberson & Polonia scored the most runs (8 apiece)
Nelson Figueroa (2.12 ERA) & reliever Santiago Ramirez each went 2-0 for the Aguilas.
This was the fifth Domincan League title for Aguilas manager Felix Fermin.
By MALCOLM ALLEN