Águilas Cibaeñas’ Ronnie Williams throws to a Los Tigres del Licey batter during the first inning of a Dominican League baseball game Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
NEW YORK – International baseball arrived in New York City on a cold fall Friday night with the first game of the Titanes del Caribe exhibition series at Citi Field as the Aguilas Cibaenas beat the defending 2023 Caribbean Series champions, the Tigres del Licey, 3-0.
The three games at Citi Field for Titanes del Caribe will not count towards the regular season record in the Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana.
Friday’s attendance was at 25,233 at Citi Field, which is a league record.
The Aguilas Cibaenas pitching staff combined to allow just two hits, three walks, and five strikeouts during Friday’s 3-0 shutout win. The Tigres’ pitching staff allowed 11 hits, two earned runs, four walks, and five strikeouts in the loss.
The only two hits of the game for the Tigres came from left fielder Danny Santana in the top of the third inning and the top of the sixth inning on Friday.
During the bottom of the second, Aguilas second baseman Cesar Prieto roped a RBI single to right field, scoring left fielder Christopher Morel for the first run of the game. A few moments later, Aguilas catcher Francisco Pena lifted a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring first baseman Elehuris Montero to extend the lead to 2-0.
Tigres del Licey starting pitcher Logan Allen threw two innings allowing four hits, one earned run, and one strikeout as manager Jose Offerman called upon relief pitcher Juan Then for the third.
Aguilas Cibaenas starting pitcher Ronnie Williams pitched lights out on Friday night throwing six innings allowing two hits, one walk, and three strikeouts. Aguilas manager Tony Pena called upon relief pitcher Felipe Tejada in the top of the seventh inning to replace Williams.
“Williams was great. I love a pitcher that throws strikes. I love the confidence that he has on the mound. He doesn’t care what the count is to throw that breaking ball. Also the changeup, and just locating the fastball real well,” Pena said during the postgame press conference.
The Aguilas added another run in the bottom of the eighth inning when right fielder Alexander Canario lofted a sacrifice fly to left field and first baseman Yefri Perez came in to score the third run of the game.
Aguilas relief pitcher Leuris Gomez earned a four-out save, getting pinch hitter Maxwell Romero Jr. to ground out to Prieto for the final out of the game.
Williams’ 2023-24 regular season stats prior to the first game of Titanes del Caribe were not pretty. In three starts, he is 0-1 with a 6.30 ERA over 10 innings in three games, allowing 13 hits, seven earned runs, seven walks, and three strikeouts along with a 2.000 WHIP.
Asked about the chemistry with his catcher Francisco Pena that played a big part in his bounce back performance on Friday night, Williams said, “Having him behind the plate is awesome. I talk to him after every outing. My last outing wasn’t too good. I asked him what I needed to improve on. He told me. We got on the same page and today we were together and it worked out.”
Both franchises are making their second appearance on United States soil in the middle of the regular season since the Serie de Las Americas event in Miami during the 2015-16 winter league season. The The Tigres del Licey and Aguilas Cibaenas participated in the event along with the Navegantes del Magallanes and Cardenales de Lara from the Liga Venezolana de Beisbol Profesional. The Aguilas Cibaeñas won the Serie de las Americas in the only year it was played, beating the Cardenales de Lara in the bottom of the ninth inning 4-3 on Zolio Almonte’s two-out, two-run single.
The Tigres del Licey played in the 1991 Caribbean Series at Bobby Maduro Miami Stadium, which was the last time the tournament was hosted on United States soil. The 2024 Caribbean Series will be held in Miami for the third time, and will be at a Major League Baseball stadium for the first time.
The Tigres are currently in second place during the 2023-24 regular season at 10-8 right behind first place Gigantes del Cibao at 13-5. Aguilas is in last place at 5-13 in the regular season.
Both franchises will return to the Dominican Republic after the three-game exhibition series to play each other on November 14 in Santiago at Estadio Cibao at 6:30 EST and on November 15 in Santo Domingo at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal at 6:45 EST. All LIDOM games are streamed on MLB.tv with a subscription.
The Titanes del Caribe with Águilas Cibaeñas and Tigres del Licey will start at 1:00 p.m. EST at Citi Field and will be streamed live on https://telecentro.com.do/telecentro-en-vivo/.
NOTEBOOK: The Titanes del Caribe Series event will pay tribute to the first Dominican Republic player to play in Major League Baseball Ozzie Virgil Sr., who made his debut with the New York Giants on September 23, 1956. … The last Latin-American Baseball Event in New York City was the 1963 Hispanic All-Star Game at the Polo Grounds on Oct. 12, 1963, and was also the baseball game the venue. The 1963 Hispanic All-Star Game was the only time that the event was ever held to feature players from both the American League and National League.
Only 14,235 people attended the game in the 55,000 uptown colosell. According to Michael Clair of MLB.com, “the All-Star game raised funds for retired Latino players and the “Hispanic-American Baseball Federation” to provide equipment to youth players”.
Many Latin greats, including Hall-of-Famers Luis Aparicio, Roberto Clemente, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Oliva, and Minnie Minoso played in the 1963 Hispanic All-Star Game. Caribbean Series Hall-of-Famers, Winter League, and Major League Greats Felipe Alou, Manny Mota, Vic Power, Diego Segui, Clemente and Minoso participated in the final baseball game at the Polo Grounds as well.
The National League Hispanic All-Stars won against the American League All-Stars 5-2 during the only Hispanic All-Star Game. The National League won three interleague events in Major League Baseball during 1963 with the All-Star Game and the Los Angeles Dodgers sweeping the New York Yankees in the World Series in the same season.