By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
FAJARDO, Puerto Rico – After three straight days of rain outs, World No. 11 World Puerto Rico shut out the No. 63 United States Virgin Islands 8-0 for their first win of the 2023 Caribbean Cup at Estadio Concepcion Perez Alberto.
The United States Virgin Islands dropped to 0-2 during the tournament and will play Curacao at 11 a.m. EDT in the first game of the Caribbean Cup semifinals on Saturday at Estadio Concepción Pérez Alberto in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico will play Cuba after the conclusion of the United States Virgin Islands and Curacao, with a berth to the gold medal game and first place on the line at the 2023 Caribbean Cup.
The United States Virgin Islands is in a five-way tie in the World Baseball Rankings with Afghanistan, Palau, India, and Nepal with 14 rankings points in total.
In the top of the second inning, Puerto Rico got on the board first when right fielder Abdel Guadalupe launched a two-run home run over the left field wal,l scoring designated hitter Osvaldo Martinez to go up 2-0.
A few batters later, third baseman Nelson Molina would ground out to United States Virgin Islands second baseman Toshawn Drew and shortstop Jeremy Rivera came in to score to extend the lead to 3-0.
Puerto Rico would score four runs in the top of the second inning and not look back the rest of the way.
The home run party started in the top of the third inning when Puerto Rico center fielder Joseph Monge launched a leadoff solo home run over the left field wall to extend the lead to 5-0.
A few batters later, Guadalupe came up once again and crushed a two-run home run over the left field fence, his second of the game, giving Puerto Rico a commanding 7-0 lead.
United States Virgin Islands starting pitcher Eric Claudio threw 2.1 innings allowing eight hits, six earned runs, walking one batter, and one strikeout to the tough Puerto Rico offense.
Puerto Rico starting pitcher Andres Santiago recorded the win on Friday, going four innings while allowing one hit, one walk, and striking out two batters.
“Very happy for the victory. I always had my routine, pretty much just attacking the hitters, controlling the strike zone, throwing the fastball in the spot that I want to, to be able to work with my offspeed pitches and have them off balance,” Santiago told World Baseball Network after the game on Friday.
In the top of the sixth, Puerto Rico added their final run of the game when Molina drove a ground ball single to left field, scoring right fielder Miguel Ejea for the eighth run of the game.
Puerto Rico relievers Ojani Chacon, Jose Diana, Miguel Martinez didn’t allow a hit and gave up one walk and notched three strikeouts during the 8-0 shutout victory.
Jordan Scott and Stepan Walwyn threw 4.1 innings out of the bullpen for the Virgin Islands, allowing three hits, one earned run, one walk, and eight strikeouts as they fell to 0-2 at the Caribbean Cup.
“This is the first experience I got to play in an international baseball senior event representing my country. It feels like a blessing playing for your island. It’s just more than pride and means everything for me,” Guadualpe told World Baseball Network after the game.
Puerto Rico is still in contention to win their second consecutive Caribbean Cup gold medal, after winning the gold medal last year in the Bahamas against Cuba. They’ll have to go through Cuba again on Saturday to have a chance to repeat.
All remaining games for the semifinals on Saturday and the placement round on Sunday will be at Estadio Concepcion Perez Alberto along with being streamed on https://r1live.com/ paid subscription service.