By Conor Liguori and Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
Venezuela advanced to the Caribbean Series championship game with a 7-5 win over Colombia in an intense semifinal game did not disappoint, that featured offense and flaring tempers between the two teams early on.
Venezuela’s Leones De Caracas returns to the Caribbean Series Final for the first time since 2006, beating Colombia’s Vaqueros De Monteria. Leones hopes to win their first championship since the 2006 edition and the first Caribbean Series title for Venezuela since 2009, when Tigres De Aragua last won the tournament.
Venezuela got on the board first in the bottom of the first, with Ali Castillo and Wilfredo Tovar jumpstarting the inning with back-to-back singles. Jose Rondon drove both Castillo and Tovar home with a single of his own to give Venezuela a 2-0 lead.
Colombia scored their first run in the top of the third inning. After Dayan Frias drew a walk, Gustavo Campero doubled to cut the Venezuela lead to 2-1. Venezuela answered back in the bottom of the inning with two runs. With no outs and the bases loaded, Isaias Tejada grounded out to second baseman Francisco Acuna, who opted to get the out at first rather than try for home. With runners on second and third, Orlando Arcia drove in an additional run with a sac fly. The score would remain 4-1 Venezuela until the fifth inning.
In the bottom of the third, a shallow fly ball was caught by Colombia shortstop Dayan Frias, who fired the ball back to third baseman Fabian Pertuz. Pertuz smacked a hard tag down on Jose Rondon as he retreated back to the base. Rondon, visibly displeased, shoved Pertuz backwards. The benches would clear, but both teams did more shouting than pushing and shoving.
In the top of the fifth inning, Gustavo Campero drove home Dayan Frias with an RBI triple. Campero scampered home on a single from Francisco Acuna, cutting the Venezuela lead to 4-3.
Similar to the third inning, Venezuela answered back with two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Hernan Perez led off the inning with a walk. The big swing of the inning came from the bat of Jose Rondon, smacking a curveball over the left field wall, sending the Venezuela fans into a frenzy. Hernan Perez added another run for Venezuela with an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning to extend the Venezuela lead to 7-3.
Colombia would cut the deficit to three in the eighth, with a double from Jordan Diaz and RBI single from Dilson Herrera, driving in Diaz. The Venezuela lead would shrink to 7-5 with a RBI double from Fabian Pertuz. Herrera would score on the hit. Colombia would fall short of a comeback in the ninth inning, as Venezuela closer Anthony Vizcaya would retire the first three hitters in order.
Colombia starting pitcher Julio Vivas had some trouble with the Venezuela lineup. In 2.1 innings, Vivas allowed four earned runs on six hits. On the other side, Guillermo Moscoso helped set the tone for the four Venezuela relief pitchers that followed him. In five complete innings, he allowed three earned runs on five hits. Moscoso only walked one hitter and struck out seven.
Relief pitcher Anthony Vizcaya came in the top of the eighth inning to record a four-out save and help Leones go in to the championship game. Vizcaya had no trouble getting it done, retiring the side in order in the top of the ninth inning, getting Acuna to lineout to first base for the final out of the game.
Venezuela’s Leones De Caracas will play the Dominican Republic’s Tigres Del Licey in the Championship final tonight at 6:30 p.m. EST at Estadio De La Rinconada, with Cesar Valdez starting for the D.R. against Erick Leal for Venezuela.
Colombia’s Vaqueros De Monteria will play in the third-place game against Caneros De Los Mochis of the Liga ARCO Mexicana del Pacifico circuit at 1:30 p.m. EST at Estadio De La Rinconada.
Both games will be available to watch on ESPN Deportes and ESPN+.