Puerto Rico wins behind Rivera’s hit

A closer look at Radames Lopez Little League of Guayama, Puerto Rico’s, 6-0, win over Gold Coast Baseball Association Little League of Gold Coast, Australia, at Volunteer Stadium on Saturday.

PLAY OF THE GAME: It was only a single for Luis D. Rivera which dropped behind second base, but it proved to be the biggest offensive blow of the game as it drove in two runs and gave Puerto Rico a three-run lead against Australia. With two outs, Rivera hit a high pop-up which happened to drop just behind second base. Australia’s players couldn’t get in position to catch it, and Victor Cartagena and John Lopez, who both reached thanks to a throwing error and a single, scored.

PUERTO RICO PLAYER OF THE GAME: Yadiel Delgado — Hard to not pick the Puerto Rico right-hander after Saturday’s performance. Delgado routinely kept Australia’s offense quiet, yielding only one hit as Australia struggled to make contact. The only Australian hitter with a hit was Oscar Hyde — who had the first home run of the Series this year on Thusday — when he had a shallow single into right field in the bottom of the fourth inning. Other than that, it was nothing but fly outs, grounders and strikeouts. Delgado had nine strikeouts and ended the game with just 60 pitches.

AUSTRALIA PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jett Grimmond — The Australian relieved starter Matthew White in the top of the fourth inning with White was nearing the pitch limit, and he did well against Puerto Rico for his 1 2/3 innings. Puerto Rico twice loaded the bases in the fourth and fifth innings and Grimmond didn’t yield a run either time. He struck out a batter for final out in fourth and White made a diving catch to end the fifth inning. Puerto Rico’s Angel Vazque had the only hit against Grimmond when he driilled a deep shot into right-center field that drove in John Lopez. But Australia couldn’t provide him any run support.

“Jett’s only been playing two years of baseball, so he might have had 40, 50 games lifetime. So’s just learning the craft,” Australia manager Brent Iddon said. “He actually never ptiched in the national championships for us, so he’s slowly learning. He’s a little raw, that’s why he was picked, but he was able to do what we needed.”

BIG INNING: Puerto Rico started making contact in the top of the third inning. Homircal Rodriguez started the inning with a leadoff single into shallow left field and, with one out, a throwing error put two runners on. John Lopez had a shallow RBI single to drive in a run before Rivera had a hit drop just behind second which allowed two more runs to score in. White recorded a strikeout to end the inning, but the damage was done and Puerto Rico had a three-run lead over Australia.

BEST EFFORT: While Delgado earned the performance of the day for Puerto Rico with a brilliant pitching effort, Puerto Rico’s defense made solid plays throughout the game to continually rob Australia of possible hits. Victor Cartagena made a snag at short in the first inning on a line drive to prevent William Baker from reaching. He then robbed Tyler Salmon-Patrick in the second inning on a hard shot to him. Then in the top of the fourth inning, it was Rivera who made a snag on a rocket above his head which would have allowed Baker to reach.

HOME RUNS: Puerto Rico’s Eric Rodriguez drove the second pitch he saw after a foul ball and just over the left-field fence in the top of the fourth inning to give the Caribbean Region champions a 4-0 lead over Australia.

FLASHING LEATHER: With the bases loaded thanks to two walks and a fielder’s choice, Australia was facing a four-run deficit as Puerto Rico was hoping to add more runs with two outs. Rodriguez drilled a pitch into deep right field before White — who had never played in the outfield — made an incredible diving catch to prevent Puerto Rico from doing more damage.

“He actually doesnt play outfield for us, just way the pairings were,” Iddon said. “He obviously got a bad read and bad jump on the ball, so he turned an easy catch into a hard one, but he caught it.”

WHAT THE ADULTS SAY: “That was our plan for today’s game: score runs early in the game so (Yadiel) can pitch more innings during the game,” Puerto Rico manager Carlos Texidor said.

WHAT THE KIDS SAY: “I felt more comfortable on the mound. I knew that the team was going to score some more runs and by that time, I just concentrated on controlled strikes and trying to finish the game,” Puerto Rico’s Yadiel Delgado said through an interpreter on getting an early 1-0 lead on Australia.

WHAT IT MEANS: Puerto Rico advances to play an eliminatin game Monday at Volunteer Stadium at 1 p.m. against the loser of today’s Japan/Panama game. Australia is eliminated from the tournament, but plays in a consolation game Monday at Lamade Stadium at 11 a.m. against Rhode Island.