By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
Jan. 18, 2022
A capacity crowd came out to Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal in Santo Domingo, hoping to see Tigres del Licey capture their 23rd LIDOM championship.
But they’d have to wait, through nine full innings and the top of the tenth, until Mel Rojas, Jr.’s one-out single to right field scored Ronny Mauricio for a 2-1 Tigres win and a 4-1 series victory, their first at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal since 2014.
Jorge Alfaro’s hot bat again sparked the Tigres in the bottom of the third, when the long-haired designated hitter ripped a two-out single to right field. Ramon Hernandez then hit into a fielder’s choice, advancing Alfaro to second. Mel Rojas, Jr. singled to left, scoring Alfaro, but tripped between first and second and was tagged out to end the inning.
Estrellas starter Andy Otero, who’s expected to pitch in the upcoming World Baseball Classic for Panama, went 3.1 innings, allowing six hits, one walk, one earned run, and striking out one.
With two outs in the top of the fifth and MLB veteran Robinson Cano on first, Jeimer Candelario ripped Hernandez’ offering down the third base line, past the outstretched glove of Tigres’ third baseman Ronny Mauricio into the left field corner. Cano, who has largely been a non-factor in the series, chugged hard around the bases from first, only to have the relay throw home beat him by three steps, where Licey catcher Jesus Sucre easily tagged him out to end the inning.
It was as good a chance as Estrellas would get until the top of the eighth, when Candelario launched a high fly ball to right that barely cleared the yellow line for a home run to tie the game at one.
And while the expectant crowd at Estadio Quisqueya was subdued temporarily by Candelario’s homer, the mostly blue-clad throng was hardly silenced.
Estrellas threatened with two outs in the top of the ninth, getting a baserunner when Junior Lake reached on a bunt to the left side, and then putting runners at the corners when Robinson Cano’s grounder to first was booted into the outfield by first baseman Ramon Hernandez. Candelario, though, was only able to lift a fly ball to right that was easily hauled in by Dairon Blanco, and the threat was mitigated.
In the bottom of the 10th, Ronny Mauricio led off with a single to center field off Ronel Blanco, making the crowd erupt with anticipation. And then Jorge Alfaro was up again, and Blanco couldn’t find the plate, sending the hottest bat on the island to first on five pitches and drawing the Tigres to the top step of the dugout.
Alfaro, who hit .421/.476/.789 with two home runs and four RBI in the series, was named MVP of the final series.
After falling behind 0-2, Rojas took a ball outside and then fouled off Blanco’s fourth offering before stroking a single to right field, and all Estrellas right field Micker Adolfo could do was watch as Mauricio trotted home with the winning run.
Tigres del Licey will represent the Dominican Republic at the Caribbean Series in Caracas, Venezuela February 2-10.