De Jesus’ bat anything but shy in Caribbean win
Carlos De Jesus didn’t say much during Wednesday’s press conference following Guayama, Puerto Rico’s, 9-4 win over Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. When asked about his mammoth two-run home run in the sixth inning which cleared the nearly 15-foot high shrubs in dead center field, De Jesus didn’t say anything.
The first baseman just had a grin on his face and stared at the microphone. It took some encouraging from manager Carlos Texidor to get De Jesus to speak and his answer was far from a lengthy explanation..
“I’m very happy. I really enjoyed hitting those two home runs,” De Jesus said through an interpreter as he smiled.
De Jesus may be soft spoken and shy, but at the plate, he’s anything but.
He hit two home runs Wednesday and had a team-high three RBIs to lift Puerto Rico to a 9-4 win over Canada in an elimination game at Volunteer Stadium, keeping its Little League World Series championship hopes alive. Puerto Rico faces either South Korea or Japan in the international semifinals today at Lamade Stadium.
Puerto Rico trailed Canada by a run after two innings but its offense sparked in the top of the third to reclaim the lead. John Lopez hit a hard single to center to bring in De Jesus, who reached on a fielder’s choice. One at-bat later, Eric Rodriguez crushed a double into center field to drive in Luis D. Rivera and Lopez to take the momentum from Canada with a 5-2 lead.
“Those four runs gave me relief that I needed,” Texidor said. “Canada was very aggressive and then our team made some errors (early), so yes, those runs gave me a big (sigh of) relief.”
Canada made it interesting in the bottom of the third inning, scoring twice to make it a one-run game. Nate Colina led off the game with a single into right field before an error allowed Ian Huang to reach and put two runners on base. Dio Gama drilled a double to the fence which scored both Colina and Huang to cut the deficit.
“We thought we coud win the game. It was winnable for us. I guess you could say disappointed, but at same time, we’re OK with it,” Canada manager Mike Marino said. “We’re in the international semifinal, there’s only eight teams left playing in the world right now. There’s a lot of positives to take from it. We’re taking the high road and we are so happy to be here. We had a great time, so we’re pretty happy.”
Canada’s hopes of rallying like it did four days ago against Spain in extra innings slowly started slipping away. Puerto Rico instantly bounced back in the top of the fourth inning with two runs of its own to make it a three-run lead. It then all but sealed the game with De Jesus’ crushing home run.
The Caribbean Region champions hit Canada’s Jordan Jaramillo well through his 4 2/3 innings on the mound, collecting eight hits and scoring seven runs against him.
“We had to be perfect and we did make a couple errors that are uncharacteristic of our team. They scored a few runs and it prolongs your pitching so we had to pull our guy a little earlier,” Marino said. “We had a mental mistake, but they’re 12. What can you do? It’s baseball at the end of the day and we’re just happy to be here and have fun.”
De Jesus was Puerto Rico’s offensive star Wednesday afternoon. In addition to his home run in the sixth inning, he opened the game with a solo shot over the center field fence with two outs in the top of the first inning to put Puerto Rico ahead, 1-0. He ended the day 3 for 4 with three runs scored and three RBIs.
“I have a special place for him. Carlos is a special boy,” Texidor said. “He’s very shy, but when he was selected for team, it was a very good selection.”
Gama was one of two players for Canada with multiple hits. He went 2 for 3 with a double, two RBIs and a run scored. Colina also was 2 for 3 with a double and run scored.
Puerto Rico has to play again today and will get either Japan or South Korea in an elimination game with a chance to advance to the International championship game Saturday. And for Texidor, he knows what to expect regardless of who they will be playing.
“Both teams play the same type of game, so either one is going to be for us the same. Our team is ready and prepared for either Korea or Japan,” Texidor said. “We’re going to have practice in morning to prepare the team physically and mentally and then we’re going to be having what we want: to play at Lamade.”
Canada ends its run at the Series with a 2-2 mark, making this the first time Canada has ever won two games in consecutive Little League World Series tournaments. It’s also the first time Canada’s ever been in the International semifinals in back-to-back years.
“We told the boys at beginning of the summer, ‘this could be the summer of your life,’ and I think it’s lived up to that. I think they believe its the summer of their life and I’ll be honest I don’t think I’ve had a better summer. We never even got close when we were playing, we didn’t even get out of our district,” Marino said. “We know how hard it is to get here. It was a good ride, it was a great ride and there’s no regrets. There’s no pity.”