Fargo-Moorhead’s Mitchell Verburg went 5.1 innings, allowing just two hits and a walk in the RedHawks’ 2-1 win against the Leones de Yucatan. (Photo Courtesy WBSC)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
MERIDA, Mexico – The Leones de Yucatan have been declawed.
Notching just one run in their second game at the 2023 Baseball Champions League against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, the Leones mustered just three baserunners over the final five innings as they were unable to solve RedHawks reliever Mitchell Verburg.
Verburg threw 5.1 innings, allowing two hits, one walk, and striking out three, shutting down the Leones as the RedHawks improved to 1-1, defeating the Leones 2-1 and keeping their hopes of winning the inaugural Baseball Champions League alive.
The Leones fell to 0-2 and will need to win their Saturday night game against the Alazanes de Granma to have any chance of playing in Sunday’s championship game.
“The truth is I feel very… well, yes, very sad, to be honest, because I didn’t get the results I expected,” said Leones manager Roberto Vizcarra said in Spanish following the game. “We still have to be there from tomorrow, come to play the last game, and wait for combinations to be able to reach in the end.
Vizcarra’s squad didn’t get the chance to have infield or batting practice prior to the game due to the 1 p.m. game between the Caimanes de Barranquilla and the Alazanes de Granma had a nearly three-hour rain delay.
“it was a very difficult day, a very long day. We were, at the last minute, very rushed. As you saw, we almost ran out to the presentation,” Vizcarra said.
Despite the rush, Yucatan loaded the bases in the first, but the inning ended when designated hitter Luis Juarez popped out. That was the best chance the Leones had, and as quickly as the distant lighting from thunderstorms in the area flashed in the sky, it was gone.
Alec Olund’s two-out double in the bottom of the second gave Fargo-Moorhead a runner in scoring position, and Sam Dexter followed with a a double, sending Olund scampering home. Dillon Thomas singled to right field to drive in Dexter, then was caught at second trying for an extra base to end the inning.
Yucatan got its only run of the game in the top of the fourth when right fielder Yadir Drake homered to left field to make it a 2-1 game.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, Fargo-Moorhead starter Colten Davis left the game, yielding to Verburg, who was almost untouchable over the remaining five innings.
Asked what was working for him, Verburg, deferring credit, said, “I don’t know about everything. I got away with a lot. I got a lot of respect for that team over there. I think Colton did a really good job setting up the first four innings.”
The plan was for Verburg to start on Saturday, which, obviously, has changed.
“He’s a good pitcher,” RedHawks manager Chris Coste said in Spanish in the postgame press conference. “Starting or relieving, it doesn’t matter. He told me he wanted to come in today. And as a manager, that’s great.”
NOTEBOOK: Yucatan will start former Major Leaguer and 2023 Caribbean Series MVP Cesar Valdez in Saturday’s game against Wilbur Reyna for the Alazanes de Granma. … Santiago Flores will start for Barranquilla against former Major Leaguer Ashton Goudeau for Fargo-Moorhead. … If the Caimanes de Barranquilla beat the RedHawks and the Leones beat the Alazanes de Granma, the Caimanes will be in the championship game, and their opponent would be determined by a Team Quality Balance tiebreaker, as three teams would have a 1-2 record.