Roberto Cespedes celebrates his game-ending catch of a fly ball hut by Robinson Cano. (Photo Courtesy of the CBPC)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
MIAMI – Panama’s Federales de Chiriqui defeated the Dominican Republic’s Tigres del Licey 3-1 at loanDepot Park Wednesday afternoon, assuring they’d finish tied for first place, at minimum, with a 5-1 record at the 2024 Caribbean Series.
Venezuela can also finish 5-1 if they defeat Nicaragua, who have yet to win a game at the event, in the night cap.
Jhonny Santos got Panama on the board with a solo homer down the left field line in the bottom of the second.
Dawel Lugo tied the game for the Dominican Republic with an RBI single in the top of the third that scored Emilio Bonifacio.
Christian Bethancourt hit a solo homer to deep center field with one out in the bottom of the sixth to give Panama a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, Johan Camargo’s RBI single scored Allen Cordoba, giving Panama an insurance run.
Sergio Alcantara led off the bottom of the ninth, reaching on an error when Panama first baseman Christian Bethancourt couldn’t come up with the throw from Joshwan Wright. Alcantara took second on a wild pitch to take away the double play, and it looked as though the Dominican Republic might rally.
But then Emilio Bonifacio flew out to deep center, and Hector Rodriguez, the 2023-24 LIDOM MVP, struck out on four pitches, bringing 42-year-old Robinson Cano to the plate as the tying run.
Cano launched a high fly ball to deep right field that brought the Dominican fans to their feet, but it was for naught, as Panama right fielder Roberto Cespedes made a leaping catch at the wall to haul in the ball and the win for Panama. Cespedes leaped and punched his glove repeatedly in celebration as he ran in from right field.
With a 3-3 record, the Dominican Republic and Curacao will be the third and fourth seeds, depending upon how the tiebreaker falls, for Thursday’s semifinals.
If Venezuela’s Tiburones de La Guaira beat Nicaragua Wednesday night, they would have the top seed by virtue of their 5-4 win over Panama Tuesday night.
Thursday’s semifinals are scheduled for 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Panama The 2024 Caribbean Series is telecast on ESPN Deportes and ESPN+