By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
Nicaragua’s best-of-seven Liga de Beisbol Profesional Nacional championship between the Gigantes de Rivas and the Tren del Norte will begin on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET.
The two teams survived the four-team round-robin, which also included the Leones de Leon and the Tigres de Chinandega. The Tren del Norte finished with the best record, going 8-4 in the round robin, clinching home field advantage in game one of the championship series. The Gigantes de Rivas finished second with a 7-5 record.
After having two days off to rest, the two teams will clash on Tuesday night at Estadio Rufo Marin in Esteli.
Tren del Norte
The Tren del Norte finished the regular season in fourth place with a 14-18 record, but showed they are a force to be reckoned with in the round robin.
This championship appearance is the first for the organization, and it comes against a team in the Gigantes de Rivas, who will be making their fourth straight trip to the final. The Tren del Norte played their inaugural Liga de Beisbol Profesional Nacional season in 2020-21.
On the mound, the pitching staff is led by starting pitcher Luis Ramirez, who leads the team in innings pitched (62.2), strikeouts (48), and ERA (3.88). He led his team to an 8-2 win on January 2 against the Gigantes de Rivas in round robin play, throwing an impressive seven innings. Ramirez allowed just one earned run and five hits while striking out four.
The Tren del Norte offense proved throughout the round-robin that producing runs is not a glaring issue heading into the championship. They scored eight runs in their most recent win against the Leones de Leon on Saturday and have scored five or more in five of their last six contests. They are seeking similar offensive production in the championship.
The Tren del Norte could be viewed as the underdogs for the matchup against the Gigantes de Rivas. Still, the possibility of defeating the three-time champions is unique for an organization that joined the league four short years ago.
Luis Ramirez has been announced as the game-one starting pitcher for the Tren del Norte.
Gigantes de Rivas
The Gigantes de Rivas finished the regular season in first place with a 19-13 record. They have won three LBPN titles, most recently in 2020-21. 2023-24 is the fourth consecutive year the team has clinched a berth in the championship. The team has made nine trips to the championship round in 11 seasons.
On Sunday, former Major League Baseball catcher Raudy Read was named LBPN Most Valuable Player, putting together an incredible offensive season for the Gigantes de Rivas. The 30-year-old led the league with 11 home runs and 38 RBI and finished with a .377 batting average, just a tick lower than his teammate Francisco Peguero, who ended with a .379 average. Considering how imposing Read and Peguero have been with the bat this year, the Tren del Norte pitching staff has two tough matchups to navigate in the lineup.
Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert is also a standout for the Gigantes de Rivas. Cuthbert has experience playing for winning organizations, including 19 games with the 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals. His veteran presence and leadership could be significant for an already experienced team.
After allowing the Tren del Norte to finish ahead of them in the round-robin, the Gigantes de Rivas will look for payback in the form of a title.
Jesus Linarez has been announced as the game-one starting pitcher for the Gigantes de Rivas.
2023-24 LBPN Championship Schedule
Game 1 – January 9 at 8 p.m. ET – Estadio Rufo Marin
Game 2 – January 10 at 8 p.m. ET– Estadio Yamil Rios Ugarte
Game 3 – January 12 at 8 p.m. ET – Estadio Rufo Marin
Game 4 – January 13 at 6 p.m. ET – Estadio Yamil Rios Ugarte
Game 5 – January 14 at 6 p.m. ET – Estadio Rufin Marin
Game 6 – January 16 at 8 p.m. ET – Estadio Yamil Rios Ugarte
Game 7 – January 17 at 8 p.m. ET – Estadio Nacional Soberanía