Photo: Jonas Morel Photography
Baseball returned to Miami this past weekend as teams from the Venezuelan and Dominican winter leagues faced off at the first annual Serie de las Americas. The Cardenales de Lara and the Navegantes del Magallanes representing the Venezuelan winter league, and the Tigres del Licey and the Águilas Cibaeñas representing the Dominican winter league kicked off play on Saturday, Nov. 21, for a chance to be crowned champions.
A matchup between Venezuelan winter league rivals kicked off the inaugural series on Saturday afternoon as the game was to be counted towards winter league standings. The Magallanes got out to a quick lead and were ahead 1-0 after the first inning. However, the lead didn’t last for long as the Cardenales came alive in the third inning and took the lead 4-1 with help from a leadoff triple by shortstop Juniel Querecuto and a two-run double by Maikol Gonzalez. From there the Cardenales never looked back and cruised to a 7-1 victory and a spot in the championship game of the Serie de las Americas.
For the night cap the stage was set for a Dominican winter league faceoff between the Águilas Cibaeñas and the Tigres del Licey for the first time ever. Although not significant for winter league standings like the Venezuelan teams, the game had just as much excitement. Jonathan Villar highlighted the night as he finished with three hits and two RBIs while Jose Adames tossed five shutout innings to achieve the victory. The Tigres attempted to mount a comeback in the eighth as Jason Rogers homered and Emilio Bonifacio had an RBI single to cut the lead to 3-2, but the Águilas were able to hold on for a 4-2 victory and secure their spot in the championship game.
The Serie de las Americas wasn’t just about baseball either. Before and in between games on Saturday and Sunday night, many award winning musicians and performers from around the globe joined in on the festivities to provide entertainment for the audience. Latin Grammy Winner Mariana Vega, musical group Bachata Heightz, Alina Vargas and many others kept the event in constant motion in between games.
In the afternoon third place game on Sunday the Tigres del Licey defeated the Navegantes del Magallanes 4-2 behind the bats of Rymer Liriano and Raul Mondesi. A back and forth affair that was tied going into the ninth inning, Liriano hit a tiebreaking RBI double in the top half of the inning that put the Tigres on top and sent them on their way to a third place consolation finish at the Serie de las Americas. Next, everyone anxiously awaited the start of the championship game.
With 9,006 people packed into Marlins Park to enjoy the game, the players wasted no time in kicking things off in dramatic fashion. And once again, Jonathan Villar was at the heart of the excitement. With two strikes against him, Villar took a low and outside pitch and deposited it over the right field fence to lead off the game and put the Águilas ahead with a 1-0 lead. Villar finished the evening with two hits, two walks and three runs scored.
Coming into the ninth and final inning down 3-2, the Águilas were finally able to showcase some offense and mounted a comeback that started with a leadoff single from Angel Franco. Then, with two outs, Villar was intentionally walked and Rafael Ynoa reached on an error from the Cardeanales shortstop to load the bases and set the stage for Zolio Almonte. Almonte’s two-out, two-run single in the ninth lifted the Águilas to a 4-3 victory and crowned them champions of the first annual Serie de las Americas.
Known as a powerhouse throughout the Dominican Republic, the Águilas have collected 20 Dominican and five Caribbean Series titles over the years, and can now add one more from the Serie de las Americas. The Águilas came out of the series as the only undefeated team and champions of the event, the final standings are as follows:
- Águilas Cibaeñas 2-0
- Cardenales de Lara 1-1
- Tigres del Licey 1-1
- Navegantes del Magallanes 0-2
— Parker Asmann